There is a matter going on around the state that presents significant concern for our shuls and schools and thus requires your attention.
Over the last number of years the State of Maryland via the Maryland Department of the Environment (and other state agencies) has been addressing the issue of water quality and specifically the deterioration of water quality in the Chesapeake Bay resulting from polluted stormwater entering rivers and streams that flow into the Bay.
Legislation in Annapolis was passed last year that mandates the 10 largest jurisdictions in Maryland to implement stormwater management fees for all properties within their jurisdictional borders. These properties include all residences and properties both commercial and non-profit. Included in that is schools, shuls, hospitals, and the like. Public facilities operated by local or state government will not be required to pay the new fees.
The fee for residences will be relatively inexpensive due to their limited areas of impervious (paved or otherwise non water absorbing) surfaces. However, for commercial properties, especially shuls and schools with large rooftop surfaces and paved areas the fees may be very costly. Each county (and Baltimore City) is mandated to implement the program on its own and therefor it is up to the individual county or city councils to determine what the property owners will have to pay.
The latest reports from contacts within the councils in both Baltimore County and Baltimore City is that these jurisdictions have yet to establish any accommodation to the many financially vulnerable non-profits in the respective jurisdictions. Concerned advocates are all pointing to the proposed plan in Anne Arundel County that would place non-profits in a capped category of two times the size of a standard residential property. That would require the non-profits to pay a fee that would likely not exceed $150-200 annually, as opposed to the possibility of fees in the range thousands of dollars.
As the welfare of our community’s shuls and schools is one of our greatest concerns, we must assist in the process of reaching out to councilmembers in both the City and County to urge them to implement a plan similar to the Anne Arundel County proposal to protect those institutions and facilities which provide endless benefit to Marylanders and lack the revenue to afford these potential fees.
Additionally, there will be public hearings coming up in both the City and County where citizens will have the opportunity to be present and show their support for the non-profit entities with the hope that the councils adopt fair and appropriate measures.
Baltimore City currently has a website set up with information on this initiative and the upcoming meetings and hearings - http://cleanwaterbaltimore.org/.
Stay tuned for more information and instructions on how you can help with this important initiative.
Best wishes for a Chag Kosher V’Sameach to you and your families.
Rabbi Ariel Sadwin
Director, Agudath Israel of Maryland - Mid-Atlantic Region