More on Separate Stormwater Tax

The Town of Cobourg gets revenue from Taxes, grants from other levels of Government and user fees.  The biggest user fee is for water and sewer but there is no specific fee for Stormwater – its cost is included in taxes.  But some properties result in more use of stormwater drains than others.  For example large paved areas funnel more water to drains than lawns.  Another issue is that up till now, the Town did not know how much money was spent or should be spent on stormwater drains.   To sort out the cost and how it should be funded, the Town hired a consultant to advise them.  At the next Committee of the Whole meeting on May 9, Peter Simsisco of Watson & Associates will provide their report which answers these questions.

Separately, Staff are working on an Asset management system (computer software) and one of the tasks is to enter all data on Stormwater assets.  Part of the report includes a summary list of stormwater related assets, their value (replacement cost $70M), their expected life, and ongoing maintenance costs.  See Resources below for their full report  – they estimate annual capital costs varying from $500K to over $2M and operating costs increasing from $528K in 2023 to $581K in 2032. But the big question, is how should this be paid?

Payment Options

  1. Property Taxes – current funding method and most commonly used by other municipalities. Disadvantage is that the amount paid has little correlation to actual usage of stormwater drains
  2. Flat Rate – each property would pay the same amount.  Certainly no correlation to actual usage of Stormwater drains
  3. Land Area – that is, amount paid would be proportional to area of property.  Although there is some correlation to usage, disadvantage is that there could be major variations.  For example paved areas direct more water to drains.
  4. Utility rate – that is, like sewer rates, amount paid would depend on amount of water used. Disadvantage is that water used is not well correlated to stormwater drain usage.
  5. Runoff Coefficient – using land area, add a factor that takes into account the run-off.  Would be based on property class. Disadvantage is that it’s hard to calculate with a higher administration cost.
  6. Impervious Area of the Properties – similar to Runoff Coefficient except that the imperviousness would be actually measured.  Disadvantage is that it’s hard to calculate with the highest administration cost.

The recommended option is #5 “Runoff Coefficient by Actual Land Area per Property”.  The advantages given are:

  • Dedicated and stable funding sources which allow for better long-term planning;
  • Segregation of revenue directly aligned with service provision;
  • Increased equity as properly designed stormwater fees follow a user pay principle; and
  • Increased awareness of the importance of stormwater management and associated costs which can increase public support.

But what’s the estimated impact on various categories of properties?  It depends on the estimated cost of providing and maintaining stormwater drains and varies mostly with land area but also on type of property – see full report for more detail.

Sample Property Annual Stormwater bill 2023
Residence Single Detached $76.25
Small Commercial $190.39
Medium Commercial $893.35
Large Commercial $17,984.20

No estimate is provided for Condos.

There are two changes:

  1. More money collected because the cost of maintaining stormwater drains is higher than the current budget.
  2. A different allocation of money collected based on usage.

Because of change #1, we can expect 2023 taxes to be higher (because of this) by a typical $76.25.

The benefit of all this is really just improved transparency – we will know how many dollars of our taxes are spent on stormwater.  And maybe people emptying pools will be motivated to use their lawn instead of street drains.

The next step planned by staff is a “public forum for … public review on Engage Cobourg. The Council presentation and report will be available for public review and comment until May 25.”  Staff will then summarize public input in a report to Council and ask for a decision.


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Cobourg taxpayer
1 year ago

We have no storm water management of any sort on our street unless you count a ditch with culverts that are mostly blocked. Technically we shouldn’t have to pay but likely will.
As far as where to get the money for this how about the town spends tax money on infrastructure instead of turning Brookside and the Memorial arena into a pie in the sky facility. Has anyone completed the two surveys? I have never seen such ridiculous ideas. Who do they think is going to pay for this?

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Cobourg taxpayer
1 year ago

My neighbourhood is rather similar to yours, Cobourg taxpayer. The factor not mentioned in any of the proposals is proximity to the lake. Obviously properties far inland should pay more than those close to the ultimate destination for runoff — the lake.

1 year ago

…. hmm – so we add $76.25 to the tax load of each property (as mentioned in the proposed option #1) without regard what amount may already be included in the property tax right now.
Seems like “double dipping”….

…. and then there are all these properties that don’t even have storm sewers and not even ditches….

John Draper
Reply to  Marie
1 year ago

The amount of $76.25 is an estimated average. Not all will be additional since taxes already pays for some of the cost. Take the number as an indication – for most taxpayers, it’s not zero and not $500.

1 year ago

If you ask me the Towns engineering Dept has been rather Lax and Late in determining this
problem . From what I am hearing the issues of storm water have been stifling development
on the north and west side of Town for well over 10 years now with out any solutions .
The bogus battle between the Town , the County and Hamilton Twsp still Carries on while homes are Flooded . Why is it so hard for these High Priced officials to get their heads together and Fix the problem . Lets Study that issue

Reply to  Sandpiper
1 year ago

Could be the problem is: How do we (the town) get all the Cobourg resident taxpayers to pay for the problem areas in the north and west sides of town? I paid a premium for my lot which is high and dry…why should I help pay for some other lots that are less expensive because they are on low land.

Reply to  cornbread
1 year ago

you shouldn’t the developers and commercial centers pick it up

Fred Bate
1 year ago

I live in a townhouse condo development with our own stormwater pond which was paid for by the builder (included in our purchase cost). We don’t use any of the town’s stormwater services and I don’t think we should be charged for them. We pay for our own garbage pickup, street lighting, and snow removal so our use of town services is minimal.

Reply to  Fred Bate
1 year ago

What about your share of the stormwater facilities under the roads that you drive on

Fred Bate
Reply to  Ben
1 year ago

What about all the visitors who drive on those roads?

Reply to  Fred Bate
1 year ago

If you can solve the problem of taxing visitors please tell people who want to ban visitors to the beach how to do it!

Old Sailor
1 year ago

I would like to know how 500,000+ population cities are dealing with this stormwater user fee issue. If in fact they are treating each homeowner differently in assessing this user fee. In Cobourg it could be the beginning of other divide and conquer fees which will extend to a number of other property variables. We need more big picture thinking not nickel diming tinkering.

Reply to  Old Sailor
1 year ago

Here’s a link providing some background perspective that favours the initiative & includes larger municipalities. It appears that each municipality get to determine their own course of action and timelines. As with most initiatives–a tax and associated by-laws soon follow…and…we seem to be good at both of those.

Reply to  Old Sailor
1 year ago

Big picture thinking would hopefully result in an approach that motivates people to minimize the amount of runoff from their properties. Option 6 could achieve this through MPAC, the system used to calculate property taxes. There is nothing wrong with a user pay system, as long as the newly calculated cost is not still hidden in other charges.