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The City’s Department of Utilities in December 2021 and January 2022 held a series of webinars to help property owners learn about the proposed Water Pollution & Flood Prevention Measure, which would help fund repairs, maintenance and improvements to the aging stormwater system.

City staff explained the importance of the system and why improvements are needed to continue to protect homes, businesses, local rivers and water sources.

A copy of the presentation used during the webinar is available here.

A recorded version of the last webinar on Jan. 26 is available here.


Below is a list of some questions that were asked during the Questions and Answers portion of the webinars.


Will every parcel in the City pay the new fee, even the new neighborhoods under development or recently developed?

If approved, property owners in the City of Sacramento would pay a new fee based on the amount of stormwater that comes off a given class of parcels, which constitutes best practices across the state for stormwater fees. As new developments happen within City limits, the fee will be assessed to new property owners as well. Some exemptions may apply. 


Why do we not have another way of assessing fees? Why not go with assessed value like many of the other fees? 

State law establishes a specific set of rules for fees of this type. The new fee would relate directly to the type of service being provided; based on the amount of stormwater that comes off a given class of parcels. This constitutes best practices in California for stormwater system fees.


Since the combined sewer system has waste water and storm water in the same pipe, what fund (waste or storm water) does the City use?

For projects on the combined sewer system, both wastewater and storm drainage funds may be used. The proposed measure would fund repairs and improvements to the City's storm drainage system, which include the combined sewer system.


If the measure succeeds, what prevents the City or Mayor and Council from shifting Department of Utilities funds away when the new fees are collected?

The Department of Utilities is "enterprise" funded, which means residents pay directly for the services they are provided and the department can only use collected funds for services rendered. Proposition 218, passed in 1996, prohibits the use of the funds for any other purpose, except as specifically approved by the voters. Funds raised would be used for Sacramento’s stormwater system and subject to citizen oversight and public audits. Sacramento City Code, section 3.20.010 defines an 11-percent tax on City-operated storm drainage enterprise funds that would go toward the general fund.


As costs increase and needs for repair are greater in some areas vs. other areas, is it now time to find better practices in setting fees?

While practices may change at times, the City follows best practices from its regulatory agencies, the State and the County, as well as industry experts for developing the fee in the proposed measure. Prop 218, passed in 1996, dictates that stormwater fees must be approved by the voters and based on the service provided.


What if you have a pervious driveway? Could you be eligible for a reduced ISC?

A rate study for this fee has indicated that the factors for determining this rate are the County of Sacramento land-use code and parcel square footage. Property owners can contact the County of Sacramento to address any land-use code or square footage errors. Property owners can contact the City to request a review of their property and rates if they believe their assigned ISC is incorrect.


Was this proposal selected because of its particular popularity or is it the best thing for the city?

The City conducted two surveys in 2021 to help determine if a proposed measure would be feasible. A majority of survey respondents indicated they would support a new stormwater system fee, which would generate up to $20 million per year. Revenues would fund necessary capital improvements to maintain specific levels of service to residents and businesses. A master plan has identified a backlog of $236 million in projects. Of that total, $164 million is needed to protect public safety and property for a 100-year storm level of service and of that, $58 million is needed to protect from street flooding for a 10-year storm level of service.


Why is the City proposing the measure right now?

There has not been a new stormwater system fee in the City of Sacramento since 1996. Costs of repairing and improving the aging system are rising, with no new sources of funding to pay for them. City staff and consultants have determined that now is an appropriate time to propose the measure because of an indication of public support through surveys as well as the responsibility to only increase fees when necessary. 


Why was an Oakland research firm hired to conduct a property owner survey about this issue?

An open-bidding process was used to select a primary consultant for the project and the Oakland-based polling firm was selected as a subcontractor during that process.


What options are available to lower the costs for needed improvements such as open competitive bids that focus on completing the job on time as specified on construction plans?

The City uses an open-bidding process to help manage costs, quality, and timeliness associated with projects. Per City code, projects are awarded to the lowest responsible bidder.


How can DOU determine what is needed for the future if an auditor’s report found that existing asset inventory lacks critical information necessary to fully document the value, age and remaining useful life of the Storm Drainage infrastructure assets?

The proposed measure would help fund efforts to document and track assets. The Department of Utilities also is actively working on a long-range financial plan and an asset-management unit is assigned to address gaps identified in the audit. Even though capital improvement master planning is not complete for the drainage system, the planning that has been done has identified more than $300 million in needed projects.


What determines project priorities?

Projects are prioritized based on current needs and condition of the storm drainage system and include the need for emergency repairs, federal/state requirements and updated condition assessment information.


How would repairs affect property and traffic?

Potential impacts to the public would depend on the type of project but could be similar to other construction projects in the right-of-way. As it does for all construction projects, the Department of Utilities will make every appropriate effort to notify affected residents and/or businesses with as advance notice possible and minimize impacts to the public.


How many property owners are there in the city of Sacramento?

There are about 150,000 property owners in the City of Sacramento.


Will property owners who live elsewhere and are not registered to vote in Sacramento be able to vote? Could we save some funds by adding this onto the June primary ballot rather than a special election?

The proposed measure would be voted on only by City of Sacramento property owners, not registered voters during a “normal” election.


How is voting determined?

Each property owner would receive one vote per parcel they own. The measure would be adopted if the majority of returned-mail ballots declare "yes." The measure would not be adopted if a majority of returned-mail ballots declare "no" or if an equal number of ballots declare “yes” and “no.” Only ballots that are returned are counted.


Can renters vote on the measure? Will landlords be allowed to pass this fee to renters automatically?

Renters would not vote in this special election; only City of Sacramento property owners would vote on the proposed measure. Land lords are subject to the Sacramento’s Tenant Protection Program, which was created to assist residential tenants with increasing rental rates by establishing limits on annual rent increases.



Why doesn't the City separate the combined sewer system?

City Utilities staff have evaluated the separation of the combined system and have determined it is not feasible for several reasons: A project to separate the system is conservatively estimated to cost more than $2.7 billion; It would unnecessarily disrupt residents and businesses due to construction in the majority of streets and sidewalks within the combined sewer system; It would be restrictively challenging due to many utility conflicts.


I observe leaves in storm drains constantly; who regulates the leaf blowing efforts?

Leaf blowers are regulated by a City ordinance approved by Council. Street sweeping services are provided by the City's Department of Public Works and leaf pickup services are provided by the division of Recycling & Solid Waste. Residents are encouraged through public messaging to keep leaves and debris away from storm drains near their residence. Residents can call 3-1-1 if they see drains that are clogged. 


What happens if the water level is higher than the pipe when water is being pumped to the river? Will the pumping back up?

Sacramento's local stormwater system is designed to handle a certain amount of flooding. Flooding occurs when a storm or extended wet period exceeds the system's or a facility's capacity. There are many redundancies built in the system; if a certain facility cannot pump out stormwater, it could be redirected to another facility. If that cannot happen because of specific circumstances, flooding can occur. The purpose of this new fee is to make needed improvements to the system so that flooding is minimized.


What method do you use for the e-coli contamination along the river?

City of Sacramento drinking water is treated to meet or exceed state and federal requirements, which include physical filtration to remove sediments and a complete disinfection process to safeguard against waterborne disease.


How will the trash capture system, with its 5mm filter, deal with heavy metals, pollutants, and other smaller elements?

In some areas, the City's stormwater system includes water quality detention basins and or "bioretention" features to help filter urban runoff pollution such as heavy metals before water enters local creeks and rivers. The City's trash capture program, mandated by the State, will manage debris larger than 5mm.


Is the downtown storm drainage smelly because it is combined?

Storm drains in the combined system contain a device that uses water to prevent odors from exiting the system. During extended dry periods, the water in those devices can evaporate. Residents can call 3-1-1 if they are experiencing odors and Utilities staff will refill the device.


Are there any community-based flood mitigation initiatives in place or being discussed?

Many communities -- including the County of Sacramento, incorporated communities and dozens of specialist districts -- participate in a Local Hazard Mitigation Plan, which is designed to reduce or eliminate long-term risk to people and property from hazards.

Who advocates for us about flood insurance?

The City of Sacramento provides education on flood insurance and risk to residents and also works with regional, state and federal partners on flood insurance. The City participates in the Community Rating System and is rated at a level 3, which means that many in the City get a significant discount on their flood insurance.


Did the Department receive funds from the 1-cent sales tax, Measure U?

No Measure U funds have been used for storm drainage projects.


What does the City do about building or re-building in areas that are more likely to flood or require those in such areas to fully insure themselves for flood?

Current properties that are in a special flood hazard area as designated by FEMA or in our local floodplain are automatically flagged in the City’s building database and floodplain restrictions are applied. Properties that are in a special flood hazard area are required to carry flood insurance.