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A Storm Water Utility?

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The City and County of Honolulu is considering creating a new utility. The concept is to make it easier to deal with the challenges that come from storm water. And it would also involve a new tax.

A top engineer with the City and County of Honolulu has shared some details of an idea to create a new utility that would manage storm-water runoff and water quality regulations.

Ross Sasamura gave a virtual presentation to the Hawaii chapters of the commercial real estate development trade group NAIOP and the Urban Land Institute.  

He’s director and chief engineer of the city’s Department of Facility Maintenance, which spends about $92 million a year managing the current storm-water program, funded primarily via property taxes. This means the department competes with other city services for a share of property taxes.

The department wants to be spun out as a kind of utility, paid for with an entirely new tax charged to landowners, both commercial and residential.  A proposed monthly base rate would be $4.85 for every 1,000 square feet of paved surface area. For example, a homeowner with 3,900 square feet of “impervious area” would pay almost $17 a month. A shopping center with six acres of impervious area would pay nearly 12-hundred dollars. But all landowners could apply for credits to decrease those taxes if they can demonstrate they’ve taken efforts to mitigate water run-off from their property.

For now this is hypothetical. The agency intends to have the Honolulu City Council draft a bill early next year. If it does, and it is signed until law, Honolulu landowners will get to pay their first new stormwater fees in the 2023 fiscal year.

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