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Metropolitan District Charge

Understanding the Metro Service Charges

The majority of County residents and businesses receive water and sewer service from the Metropolitan District. While the operating cost of water consumption is paid to Baltimore City through quarterly billings, construction cost to maintain the sewer and water system in Baltimore County, as well as the operating cost of the sewer portion of the system in Baltimore County, is paid by County taxpayers along with their annual property tax bill issued each summer.

The Metropolitan District Fund must be maintained as a totally self-supporting fund without any supplemental funding from the County’s General Fund Budget. The County must collect annual charges from every property connected to the District’s water and sewer system’s charges, collectively known as Metro Service Charges. These services are comprised of a Water Distribution Charge to cover fixed costs and a Sewer Service Charge to cover variable costs of the system.

2018 Increased Rates

Annual increases in fee rates are necessary in order to maintain the self-sufficiency of the Metropolitan District Fund. The average increase for all County accounts is 13.9 percent. This rate was reached by calculating Sewer Service rates, which have increased 13 percent; Water Distribution rates, which have increased 28 percent; and Water Delivery rates paid to Baltimore City on quarterly water bills, which will increase six percent.

The current rates are insufficient to cover the District’s investment in its aging infrastructure. The water and sewer pipes in the District are in many cases 50 to 60 years old, exceeding their natural lifespan. Baltimore County has reached an agreement that it will be responsible for the replacement of pipes within the County, with the cost assumed by all County users of the District. The County is in the midst of a $1.8 billion renovation plan that will help avoid water main breaks and sewage discharge, as well as pay for upgrades to the sewage treatment plants that help keep the Chesapeake Bay clean.

In order to reduce the impact of these rate increases, the County has created a new credit for most residential accounts that limits the increase of Sewer Service and Water Distribution fees to $100 annually.

Accuracy of New Water Meters

Baltimore County’s Sewer Service fees are based on water consumption information provided to the County by Baltimore City. As part of the City’s Baltimeter project, more than 200,000 water meters were replaced for all homes and businesses, and went online in 2017. During this past year, the County contracted with a leader in the water management industry to validate the accuracy of Baltimore City’s water meter readings. The County uses those readings to calculate the Sewer Service charges included in the annual real property tax bills sent out every July 1. The contractor’s independent collection of water meter readings has confirmed a 97 percent match with Baltimore City’s meter readings.

Accurate water consumption figures are becoming available for the first time and as a result, years of billing complaints and errors are being addressed. Unfortunately the improved information may result in higher water bills for some customers, as the electronic system provides more accurate water consumption data. For example, in some cases, the former meter readings often reported low or no water consumption, which often resulted in undercharging.

Metropolitan Service Credit Program

In light of the significant rate increase implemented this year, the County will establish a temporary Metropolitan Service Credit program to reduce the fiscal impact on its residents. The credit program will be in place for four years through 2021.

Eligibility

Single homeowner-occupied residences on the new water meters that have a property tax assessed value of $250,000 or less are eligible—excluding new water and sewer accounts, property transfers and accounts already receiving city water adjustments. The $250,000 level reflects 125 percent of the median assessed value of County single homeowner-occupied homes. All 2018 credit recipients will retain eligibility through 2021, even if the home is reassessed and the home’s assessed value goes above the $250,000 limit during that time period.

For eligible homeowners, an increase in the Metro Service Fee (the combined Sewer Service and Water Distribution charges) for July 2018 is capped at $100 above the August 2017 billing for those two charges. On the 2017 bill, these charges may be found under the title “Metro Service Fee.”

Homeowners do not need to apply for the credit. Each year the net fees will increase only $100 above the net fees for the prior year.

Examples

The amount of the credit appears as a separate line on the 2018 property tax bill. Note: The below examples do not consider future rate increases or changes in the homeowner’s water consumption.

  • If the combined billing for Sewer and Water Distribution charges rise from $400 to $462, then there would be no credit because the increase is less than $100.
  • If the new meters correct previous readings that understated the amount of real water consumption and the combined Metro charge increases from $400 to $650, you would only pay $500, reflecting the $100 cap and a credit of $150.
  • In July 2019, using the example given above, the homeowner with $500 net fees would experience only an increase to $600 with a remaining credit of $50. The following year, July 2020, the homeowner would pay the full $650 and not have any credit.

Appealing the Credit

Like the Sewer Service and Water Distribution fees, if there has been a classification or calculation error, the taxpayer can file an appeal with the Director of Public Works. The appeal must be filed within 90 days of the bill date. Letters of appeal may be sent to:

Steve Walsh, Director
Baltimore County Department of Public Works
111 West Chesapeake Ave, Room 307
Towson, Maryland 21204

It is usually helpful for individuals to reach out directly to their bank or mortgage company to let them know that their bill is being evaluated. The County will try to make decisions regarding inquiries on a property tax bill in a timely manner. 

Exemptions

Disabled Veterans

Disabled veterans and their surviving spouses are exempt from payment of all Metro District Service charges as well as certain construction loan charges, such as water and sewer deficit charges, property connection charges and connection charges. However, no exemption shall be granted for the special water and sewer installation charges (also known as the private plumber's bill).

Senior Citizens on Fixed Income

Taxpayers who are 60 years of age as of July 1 and are eligible for a Homeowner's Tax Credit by reason of income may be eligible to have their metropolitan benefit and utility charges deferred. For additional information, contact the Office of Budget and Finance at 410-887-4100.

Titles of Charges

The County revised the names for the Metro District charges last year in hopes that it would be easier for individuals to understand, but property owners actually found the new names more confusing. Therefore, the County is going back to the categories that were listed on the 2016 bills. Those names are:

2017 Title2018 Title (Same as 2016)
Metro Service Charge (2 fees combined)Sewer Service Charge
Water Distribution Charge
Sewer AssessmentSewer Benefit—Reimburses the County for the cost of constructing the sewer main in the street.
Water AssessmentWater Benefit—Reimburses the County for the cost of constructing the water main in the street.

The sewer and water benefits are based on each property's frontage and the charge is paid on tax bills over 40 years. Many homeowners do not have this charge if their homes are over 40 years old.

State of Maryland Bay Restoration Fee

In 2004, the State of Maryland established a Bay Restoration Fund. The law charges a monthly fee on residential wastewater system users, commercial users and onsite sewage disposal system owners. This annual fee has been separately identified on your property tax bill and the funds will be remitted to the State. The monies will be used by the State to upgrade 66 sewage treatment plants in Maryland and reduce water pollution in the Chesapeake Bay. Learn more about the Bay Restoration Fund online or call the Maryland Department of the Environment at 410-537-3567.

Contact 

For water, sewer or metro questions call 410-887-2423.

 
Revised August 29, 2018         

 

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