Stormwater Fee Generation Optimization for a Watershed and Aquatic Resources Management District
Client: Whatcom County Public Works Department
Location: Whatcom County, Washington
Whatcom County Public Works Department provides many important services to residents, such as stormwater management. In rainy northwest Washington State where Whatcom County is located, a well-maintained stormwater system is vital to protect water quality and habitat. To help fund stormwater system operations and maintenance, property owners are charged a fee based on the amount of impervious surface on their property. Every year, the County calculates a new fee for each property to ensure residents are being accurately charged.
In November of 2017, Whatcom County suspected that the system used to generate stormwater fees for the Birch Bay Watershed and Aquatic Resources Management District could be more efficient. The County also questioned whether there would be barriers to scaling up the system to apply to a larger geographic area, if that is needed in the future. The County asked FLO to assess the fee generation system and identify potential areas for improvement as well as how a new, more efficient process could scale up.
Our assessment, based on interviews with staff and analysis of the department’s hardware and software capabilities, took into consideration the County’s personnel resources, general process methodology, data management and processing tasks, and quality control practices. From the assessment, we developed recommendations for improvements and broke them into two phases so that they could be easily implemented without impacting the generation of the next fees.
The first phase of work focused on streamlining data processing, improving documentation processes, evaluating the triggers for fee changes, developing and recording guidance for property categorization, and actually generating the stormwater fees to ensure that the new system was working.
During the second phase of work, we integrated a new County parcel fabric dataset, updated the processes for documentation and property re-assessment, developed additional reports, increased the use of automation tools, created a detailed QA/QC process, and implemented additional functionality into the County’s Customer Service Database.
Now, Whatcom County has a more consistent and structured way to run the fee generation system, along with additional tools to respond to customer queries about why their fee may have changed. This is of great benefit to the County; not only is their process now validated and faster, which saves them money, but the documentation and tools will simplify the process of bringing the fee generation system in-house to run to the same standard.