Montgomery County Taxpayers League

The Voice of Taxpayers of Montgomery County, Maryland

Sept. 19, 2013 – Bob Hoyt

 Questions sent to Bob Hoyt

 in advance of the meeting of September 19, 2013, and his responses:

Questions sent to Bob Hoyt, Director, Department of Environmental Protection, in advance of the meeting of September 19, 2013, and his responses given at the meeting:

1.  How much did the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) collect from rain tax revenue and how much was spent last year including administrative overhead, public education, environmental remediation projects?  Any surplus or deficit?  Does WSSC get any of this money?

The tax produced $22.8 million for the county for FY2013. All of the revenue goes into the Water Quality Protection Charge (WQPC) fund and stays in the county. The revenue from the “bag tax”—$2.3 million in FY2013—also goes into the WQPC fund. There is a state fund for the same purpose but that fund can be used for other purposes, unlike the County fund.

None of the tax in the county WQPC fund goes to the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission. It goes only for storm water treatment, not for waste water treatment.

One of the problems lies in the areas that were built before the current regulations took effect.

Old storm water ponds are being renovated to bring them up to current standards. DEP is required to capture the runoff from 20% (= 4000 acres) of the county’s impervious surfaces. The 2002 law was put into effect to maintain the storm water tanks under gas stations, shopping malls, parking lots, etc., since they don’t have the ability to maintain them as required.

2.   Given that state and county buildings are exempt from the Rain Tax, who are the top five rain tax taxpayers in Montgomery County?  How much does NIH/Bethesda Medical Center pay in rain taxes? 

The top five are Wheaton Plaza, Medlantic, Summit Hill apartments, Georgetown Prep school and Silver Oaks campus.

Federal installations are billed but they do not pay. Their last bill was $385K.

 3.   What platform is used to collect the aerial photos used for rain tax calculation (drones, satellites, etc.), what company takes these photos, and how much are they being paid to do so?

The share of the cost of digital imagery—used by more than one county department—for the Department of Environmental Protection is $20,000

4.   Is there enough WSSC capacity to process all the diverted storm water, or will there be additional costs to increase the capacity of treatment plants or build new ones?

The WSSC has no connection to this program. All funds colledted by this tax stay within the county.

5.   With the availability of permeable concrete and asphalt for driveways, streets and parking lots, rain water can soak directly into the ground without entering storm water drains.  Ergo will the Rain Tax be re-evaluated?

This situation will be addressed through credits to a maximum of 50%. Businesses can also get a reduction up to 60%

6.   There is a series of taxes and fees imposed by the county, the WSSC and the state all attributed to cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay.  Can you list them?  What percentage of these taxes and fees are spent directly on cleaning up the Bay.  Are these taxes meted out equally among residents, businesses and agricultural interests?

 About 50% of the county’s watershed is rated fair to poor. The county’s program of dealing with rainwater run-off does not apply to Rockville, Gaithersburg and Takoma Park.

There is a difference between rain water and waste water. Rain water is naturally occurring and runs off surfaces to street drains which empty untreated into a waterway. Waste water is sanitary water which is piped into homes and businesses. It exits as sewage and goes to treatment plants before being emptied into waterways. The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission is responsible for treating of waste water; it is not responsible for rain water.

The Bay Restoration Fee (not the rain tax) goes to the state for waste water treatment.

Each year the County spends $3 million on the removal of plastic bags from waterways. Although paper bags are biodegradable, they are taxed along with plastic bags so that stores are not hurt financially. Paper bags cost stores about twice as much as plastic bags do.

One way or another each county will have to contribute financially to Bay cleanup caused by impervious surfaces.  They can delay it all they want but they can’t escape it.  So some counties may just raise their property taxes to pay for it rather than a rain tax.

Each county is individually responsible for its financial share.  If Montgomery goes full steam ahead and the state still doesn’t get the full $14.8 billion estimated by the state, Montgomery County will not be forced to pitch in to make up the total shortfall, only our original share.

Montgomery County is the reason that Annapolis did not specify what the rainfall tax rate should be for each county.  Had they done that, then Montgomery rainfall taxes would have gone to Annapolis and into the general fund, meaning we would get back the usual 20 cents on every dollar we send to Annapolis.  Montgomery officials tried to bargain with the state (“Can you give us back at least 50 cents on the dollar?”) but the state rejected those pleas.  So, luckily for us, each dollar that is collected in any county stays in that county, to be used only for rainwater runoff control.

More information can be found at the website of the Department of Environmental Protection:

 http://www6.montgomerycountymd.gov/deatmpl.asp?url=/content/dep/dephome/index.asp