Frequently Asked Questions:
WHO WAS INVOLVED WITH THIS DECISION?
- The cities of Shoreview and Roseville were burdened with funding and managing the Grass Lake Watershed Management Organization (WMO) that spanned the two cities. These portions of both cities were not in a Watershed District. The remainder of each city is in either Rice Creek Watershed District or the Capitol Region Watershed District. The Grass Lake Watershed management budget funds came from each city’s general funds.
- BWSR is the state agency that administers the Watershed Act and the Metropolitan Surface Water Management Act. The Metropolitan Surface Water Management Act allows for the establishment of a joint powers WMO for watershed management, but these organizations are typically funded through a city’s general fund. The Surface Water Management Act also allows cities to petition the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) to shift the burden to a watershed district.
- The Grass Lake Watershed Management Organization—a joint powers organization of cities in the watershed and mandated by the Surface Water Management Act to manage (and therefore fund) watershed improvements to meet state standards—studied the Grass Lake Watershed and created a draft management plan in 2011, and in so doing realized that management costs would be a burden to the city budgets.
- Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District (RWMWD)—a watershed management organization with direct property tax levy authority—provided administrative and technical assistance to the Grass Lake WMO in past years. When the cities realized the need for financial and technical assistance for the WMO, they looked to neighboring Watershed Districts. When approached, the RWMWD expressed support for the addition of the Grass Lake WMO to its territory.
WHAT PROMPTED THE MERGER?
- Both cities agreed that a more comprehensive water management program is necessary, but should be managed by an experienced organization with proven ability to manage programs and projects. The city staff recommended to each City Council that the WMO merge with RWMWD and have future programs and projects managed and funded by the District.
HOW MUCH IS THE WATERSHED TAX?
- The RWMWD levy is approximately 2.5% of a property’s total property tax. This levy provides approximately $4 million in funds to support RWMWD staff, administrative costs, programs and capital improvement projects.
HOW WILL THIS CHANGE BE REFLECTED ON MY PROPERTY TAXES?
- If you are in the Grass Lake Watershed: You will begin to see an increased tax under a line item in Ramsey County estimated taxes labeled “Other Taxing District.” The money that the District will use for new clean water projects and programs is a portion of this fund. Before the merger, individual properties were still paying taxes to fund stormwater management through the GLWMO, but it was through the city tax levy (general fund).
- If you are in the pre-merger RWMWD: Your property tax is not affected significantly. All costs incurred for management of the new 8 square miles of Grass Lake Watershed will be absorbed by all taxpayers in the now-expanded area of RWMWD.
WHAT ELSE IS INCLUDED IN THE ‘OTHER TAXING DISTRICT?
- Estimated property tax statements mailed to taxpayers by Ramsey County on November 16th show estimated property taxes for City, County, School District, Metropolitan Agencies, and Other taxing Districts. Truth in Taxation statements for properties in the Grass Lake Watershed (located in the northeast portion of Roseville and the southeastern portion of Shoreview) show a dramatic increase in the tax levy under the “Other Taxing District” section. That increase has several components:
- a levy to fund local housing and redevelopment authorities.
- a levy to fund any other special local tax programs.
- a tax levy for the Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District (RWMWD)
- The property tax change resulted from the merging of the eight square mile Grass Lake Watershed Management Organization into the 56 square mile RWMWD.
WHAT IS A WATERSHED MANAGEMENT ORGANIZATION AND WHAT DO THEY DO?
- Watershed Management Organizations are required in the Twin Cities Metro Area. These organizations can be either Joint Powers Organizations or Watershed Districts. Both organizations are required to prepare Watershed Management Plans and implement improvements and programs to address problems identified in the plans. Also, several additional programs are mandated by the state or federal government that must be implemented by cities or water management organizations (wetland management, impaired waters, non-degradation, and MS4). The RWMWD works with our member cities to assist and collaborate on these programs to improve implementation and reduce costs. Without the merger, the Grass Lake Watershed Management Organization would have had to develop another funding method to raise additional budget funds. Future property tax impacts may have been similar to the RWMWD tax.
WHAT IS THE LEGAL PROCESS FOR ADDING AREAS TO WATERSHED DISTRICTS?
- Cities petition the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR). BWSR is the state agency that administers the Watershed Act and the Metropolitan Surface Water Management Act. The cities of Roseville and Shoreview petitioned BWSR to change the management responsibility from the Grass Lake Watershed Management Organization to RWMWD in order to reduce their potential city-wide tax burden for this watershed area. Following formal approval of the merger, the District changed its boundaries to include the new territory, now totaling 64 square miles.