Upgraded Stormwater Fee Roll Process Takes 50% Less Time, Realizing Cost Savings for a County Public Works
Client: Whatcom County Public Works Department
Location: Whatcom County, Washington
Meet the Client
Whatcom County Public Works Department provides many important services, such as stormwater management, to residents. In rainy northwest Washington State where Whatcom County is located, a well-maintained stormwater system is vital to protect water quality and habitat.
Map of Lake Whatcom
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 (BBWARM) 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 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 County’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 year’s 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 generating the stormwater fees to ensure that the new system was working.
Sample Fee Roll Documentation
BBWARM District Parcel Map
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 quality assurance/quality control process, and implemented additional functionality into the County’s Customer Service Database.
View of the Customer Service Database
In 2019, the County asked FLO for assistance on another stormwater district; Lake Whatcom Stormwater Utility District. During the development of the stormwater fee roll process we applied similar analysis and methods that were used during the BBWARM fee roll. However, a slight difference was that we were able to implement some automation to the GIS processes to calculate the fees. We also produced a customer service database that will assist County office staff when responding to customer calls.
Example GIS Model of a Fee Roll Process
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, but the documentation and tools will simplify the process of bringing the fee generation system in-house to run to the same standard. When we compared how the County previously ran its stormwater fee roll process to the way they now run it after FLO’s upgrades, we found the County had cut the amount of time needed to run the process in half.
“The fee roll process developed by FLO Analytics for both of our stormwater utilities has greatly increased the efficiency and accuracy of our billing. The reports, documents and support tools, such as the customer service database, are extremely helpful for evaluating fee changes and answering customer questions.”—Holly Faulstich, Whatcom County Public Works Natural Resource Specialist II
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