MSD eyes $20 million shortfall for stormwater services funding

Customers will begin to see reinstated fee on August bill.


A $20 million annual shortfall in revenue for stormwater services is projected with the reinstatement of the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District’s fee and property tax funding structure, the district’s executive director told its governing board last week.

The MSD Board of Trustees voted Aug. 12 to suspend a charge of 14 cents per 100 square feet of impervious area and restore a flat, 24-cent monthly charge on single-family and commercial MSD bills. Trustees also approved an 18-cent per unit fee on multifamily accounts.

A Lincoln County circuit judge ruled last month the charge based on impervious area was a “tax” that violated state law because MSD voters did not approve it.

The court invalidated the charge, which had been in effect for more than two years, but did not order MSD to stop collecting it or to issue refunds to customers.

Voters in 1988 did approve a flat monthly fee schedule for stormwater service. The 18-cent multifamily fee previously was not collected because the district’s billing system two decades ago could not handle multiple rates, MSD Executive Director Jeff Theerman said.

MSD generated roughly $41 million during fiscal 2009 with its now-suspended impervious-area charge. The district’s current budget projected the impervious-area charge would’ve generated roughly $48 million by the end of fiscal year 2011.

With the 24-cent and 18-cent flat fees and additional property taxes, MSD expects to generate about $28 million a year.

“These two measures together will … result in a shortfall of stormwater funding of approximately $20 million a year,” Theerman told trustees last week. “This will in the coming months result in changes to how we provide service. That is presently undetermined, but we’re working on it.”

MSD customers will begin seeing the re-instated fee on their August bill, which will arrive in September because the district bills ratepayers in arrears.

In addition, the board took the first step last week toward re-establishing various property tax levies of up to 10 cents per $100 of assessed valuation throughout the district. A public hearing on those tax rates is scheduled in mid-September at MSD’s headquarters, 2350 Market St. in St. Louis.

In other news, the district reported Aug. 10 to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources that wastewater was overflowing from a manhole near the intersection of Kinswood and Koch roads, near the district’s Martigney Lift Station.

The incident occurred when floodwater began flowing into the sewage collection system faster than the lift station could handle, causing the combined flood and wastewater to back up before overflowing from the nearest manholes, according to the DNR. The additional pressure on the system eventually caused a joint in the line to burst, resulting in the direct release of the wastewater into Martigney Creek, which flows into the Mississippi River.

The overflow had ceased as of Aug. 12, district spokesman Lance LeComb said.

While the state DNR estimated 1,500 gallons of wastewater were flowing into the creek per minute, LeComb said the district could not yet confirm that rate.

The release has resulted in a fish kill in Martigney Creek, according to the DNR.

The Missouri Department of Conservation has been called to determine the size and extent of the fish kill.