Using data to enhance our understanding of the urban environment and design fair and sustainable stormwater fees
The City of St. Petersburg is required to convey and treat stormwater runoff before it enters local bays and surface waters. To cover the costs of this requirement, the city charges user fees based on the amount of impervious surface found on properties. Single-family residential properties are charged a flat fee, while all others are charged a fee based on their unique amount of impervious area. As part of a recent utility rate study, the city expressed an interest in looking at the feasibility of a residential fee structure based on ranges or tiers of impervious area to better correlate to the volume of stormwater created by different residential properties.
That’s where our team was engaged – our financial services group created an innovative, data-driven method to understand the impacts of implementing a tier-based rate structure. Specifically, the team captured the impervious area for about 1,300 residential properties, and ensured that the properties included in the sample were consistent with the residential property size distribution of the full city. The percentage of impervious area to parcel size from the sample was applied to all residential parcels to establish an estimated impervious area database for creating a tiered structure and evaluating customer impacts. We then utilized a novel data visualization approach that allowed for on-the-fly changes to the rate structure and real time GIS feedback, including a map illustrating the location of residential parcels and bill impacts.
The ability to display complicated data into an approachable, visually-appealing way has helped the city engage their stakeholders and then garner buy-in to a very different fee schedule. In this case, data is priceless!
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