Alcosan's $3 billion Settlement:
Issues and Cost to You
View and Download SS Percent and Alternate Fees Spreadsheet
As discussed elsewhere on this site, a very competent and objective Third Party Review of the ALCOSAN Regional Long Term Wet Weather Concept Control Plan exists. It was completed in June, 2002 and --while somewhat buried on Alcosan's web site-- was at least accessible to the public in 2007 but now has vanished. Thus, public access to this Third Party Review has been added to this site.
This Third Party Review was funded by Alcosan. It is an excellent, fairly readable, assessment by three highly competent outside consulting engineering firms. Section 6 of this Third Party Review estimates the cost impact on households (homeowners and renters). It quite correctly raises the question of serious unaffordability of even a $2 billion Alcosan consent decree. Indeed, this website's projection to a $3 billion consent expenditure concludes that the present average Alcosan bill for households (homeowners and renters) will increase from a present $300 to over $1,300 a year! To better understand the magnitude of the impact, a spreadsheet was developed to look at the likely percent of homeowners and renters that are receiving Social Security. The results show that 31.7 percent of Alcosan's customers are on some type of Social Security payment. The spreadsheet results can be downloaded using the buttons to the < < < left.
Even more importantly, the above impact of the $3 billion is likely even higher! Most municipalities mark-up the Alcosan sewer bill to pay for their own local sewer systems. Typical bills and their mark-up are shown here at 3 Rivers Wet Weather. For example, given a $170 annual Alcosan household bill, some of the lower markup municipalities are Avalon ($170) and Ben Avon ($170) that have no markup at all; some of the highest marked-up bills are in Oakdale ($845) and Franklin Park ($570). As the $3 billion of construction works its way through Alcosan and local municipalities, it is not clear whether these baseline markups will remain constant in either dollars or percent. One fact is clear, however: the $2 billion of the $3 billion for local municipality construction of sewer system controls will likely not be evenly distributed and will add even more inequities and unaffordabilities.
Section 9 of the Review further analyzes the cost impact and suggests that other funding than the traditional sewer-bills- based-on-water-meter-use could be considered. The bottom section of the downloadable spreadsheet looks at two supplemental options:
The second option is shown at the bottom of the spreadsheet. This
would be a fee on certain impervious areas that contribute rain runoff into combined sewer systems. If taxed at the same rate per gallon charged a homeowner under the consent decree, the rate would be $590 dollars per year per 1,000 square feet based on 37 inches of annual rainfall. For example, the US Steel Tower and Plaza would be around 1.9 acres or 83 thousand square feet. At $590 per thousand square feet of impervious area, the result would be a runoff 'tax' of around $49,000 per year. Since homeowners and renters are already paying for much of the runoff into combined sewer systems (even if they don't live on a combined sewer), implementation would only be on commercial or industrial property in a combined sewer area.
NOTE: THIS EXAMPLE IS ONLY AN ESTIMATE BASED ON A SATELLITE PHOTO AND THIS IS NOT INTENDED TO PICK ON THE US STEEL COMPLEX, BUT IS RATHER INTENDED TO GIVE AN IDEA OF THE LEVEL OF IMPACT THAT AN IMPERVIOUS AREA TAX WOULD HAVE. IT ALSO MAKES A PERHAPS UNWARRANTED ASSUMPTION THAT THIS PARTICULAR COMPLEX IS CONNECTED TO A COMBINED SEWER SYSTEM.
To simplify implementation, the tax would be levied on the entire acreage of the property site. However, the site owner could petition for a deduction for grassy surface or for an entire elimination if the owner added appropriate retention ponding. This acreage would be converted into a quarterly gallon equivalent and merged with the applicable water company records as if it were a separate zero-dollar water use. Thus, the billing procedure could be readily implemented. Although city and county roads would not be taxable, consideration should be given to taxing applicable state road surface areas and, if possible, any applicable interstates.
Note: This download is a full spreadsheet which means that you can change inputs and calculations and all or part of it is printable. It is operable in Microsoft Excel which is the spreadsheet component of MSOffice. It should also be fairly importable into Lotus 1-2-3 and QuattroPro.
Note: This view or download is as a PDF. This means that you can view the applicable portion of the spreadsheet and can print it out. However, you can only 'look' at it and, thus, can not change any assumptions or calculations.
would be an annual $250 county-wide vehicle registration fee. If used county wide, this could potentially substitute for about one-half of the sewer tax. The related revenue calculations are shown toward the bottom of the spreadsheet. Such a tax would help reduce the impact on the elderly, low income, and Social Security households since they are less likely to own an automobile or would own fewer numbers of them.
The first option is shown in the middle of the spreadsheet. This
One rationale for the tax on automobile registrations is that these vehicles use roads and city streets which have catch basins that drain into combined sewer systems.