Legislation may result in increased MSD bills

By MAGGIE MENDERSKI

Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District customers may see an increase in their bills if Gov. Jay Nixon signs Senate Bill 242.

SB 242, approved by the General Assembly earlier this month, would exempt those who do not receive MSD’s sanitary sewer services and whose stormwater does not go directly into an MSD sewer from paying the district’s monthly stormwater-service fee, according to MSD spokesman Lance LeComb.

“We provide wastewater, sanitary service and stormwater service for all of St. Louis City and 80 percent of the county,” LeComb said. “Even though some have not necessarily been paying for sanitary service, they have all along been paying a variety of property taxes that in turn are used to pay for stormwater services.”

In March 2008, MSD began charging all customers 12 cents per 100 square feet of impervious area. Impervious property includes such non-absorbent property as driveways, roofs, garages and parking lots.

The charge rose to 14 cents on Jan. 1 and is expected to cap at 29 cents. The average homeowner will pay about $7.50 a month in impervious charges once the rate is fully implemented in 2014.

Before March 2008, stormwater charges were funded by a 24-cent charge on every MSD sanitary bill, property taxes and a subsidy from the district’s wastewater usage charge. However, this method was determined to be unfair and inadequate by the MSD Rate Commission.

Until 2008 when the stormwater-service fee was enacted, properties with septic tanks were not charged by the sewer district, even though many of them contained large amounts of impervious area.

“Traditionally, these folks have been paying the least amount for stormwater services,” LeComb said. “Yet by charter, we are still required by state and federal regulations to provide them with stormwater services and perform a variety of stormwater functions.”

MSD officials are waiting for the governor’s decision on signing SB 242.

“We have to review the language and determine what it actually means for us,” LeComb said. “It will involve a bit of mapping of properties, involve a commitment of resources and time in our staff. It’s not just as simple as saying you own a septic system. There is a provision in there for if there are actual stormwater sewer services on the property, as we understand it.”

The signing of this bill eventually could result in an increased impervious charge for MSD customers, LeComb said.

“When you look at the totality of the funding it is going to create some sort of revenue shortfall,” he said. “This will ultimately have to be made up by the rest of our rate-payers.”

This shortfall could place MSD back in its original unequal and unfair situation, according to LeComb.

“Bottom line, there are going to be those in our community who aren’t paying anything,” he said. “The rest of us will have to make up for that.”