Imagine you didn’t pay your cable or internet bill, and instead of cutting off service and possibly sending the bill to collections, the company filed a lien against your home. It may seem far-fetched, but something similar could happen to residents of Fairfax, Virginia, if the city council approves a “fee” to fund a stormwater utility.
At Tuesday night’s Fairfax City Council meeting, city staff confirmed that the city’s proposed “stormwater utility fee,” which is just another phrase for a rain tax, would be charged with residents’ real estate taxes. If you don’t pay the “stormwater utility fee,” the city could file a lien against your home. No other fee in the city works this way. That’s not how it works if you fail to pay your cable or electric utility bills. So why should Fairfax residents live in fear of a “fee” that’s actually an unnecessary and additional tax?
For background, Fairfax property owners fund our current stormwater program with 3 cents of their current real estate tax rate. That means if you have a higher assessed property than your neighbor, you pay more into our city’s stormwater management. The proposed rain tax seeks to replace the real estate tax rate model with a “fee for service” approach. This means that if this new system is adopted, you will be charged a fee based on the water runoff your property generates. Sounds fair and great, right?
Not so fast — there’s more to think about unless you can stop the rain.