St. Peters officials are trying to figure out a way to pay for a storm water management program that would keep the city in compliance with federal regulations.

Russ Batzel, manager for public works and services, told the Board of Aldermen Feb. 23 that the city could use one of three options to generate the $3.9 million it needs every year to manage storm water effectively.

One option would be to ask voters for a property tax increase of 33 cents per $100 assessed valuation, which equates to a 43 percent increase. Another would be a utility fee that would require an assessment of $120 per year for homeowners.

Batzel said the third option is likely to be the most palatable for residents. That would be a sales tax increase of four-tenths of 1 percent, or 40 cents for each $100 purchase. The board could consider during its March 8 meeting the idea of submitting a tax proposal to voters, possibly in August when party primary elections will be conducted.

Alderwoman Judy Bateman, Ward 2, worried that asking voters for a sales tax increase would make St. Peters’ tax higher than that of surrounding municipalities.

“We’re still at or below our neighboring cities with that increase,” said City Administrator Bill Charnisky.

In August 2010, St. Peters voters approved a $40 million bond issue for storm water projects; but because the assessed value of property in St. Peters has declined by 10 percent since 2008, the city needs a dedicated revenue source to fund debt service and ongoing maintenance costs until bond capacity increases.

“We’re recommending we look hard at a sales tax increase,” Batzel told the board. “Sales taxes are paid by nonresidents, so it’s a way to spread out our costs. It’s the least cost option for residents and businesses.”

State law allows cities to collect, with voters’ approval, a sales tax of up to one-half of 1 percent to pay for parks and storm water improvements. In 2000, St. Peters voters approved a one-tenth of a cent sales tax for parks and storm water. The city uses that revenue to fund its annual storm water program budget of $600,000. If voters approve another sales tax increase, it would meet the city’s storm water funding needs, Batzel said.

The main issues the program would tackle are pollution prevention, creek bank erosion, flooding and detention basin management.

Batzel said Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4) communities are required to have a storm water management plan for pollution prevention. St. Peters created such a plan in 2003, and it is on file with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. A five-year permit from DNR that allows the city to discharge storm water from the community will expire in 2013.

Storm water is regulated by the 1972 Clean Water Act, which requires all waters in the U.S. to be fishable and swimmable. Batzel said the Environmental Protection Agency would hand down new rules for storm water management by November and that he expects there will be additional requirements for pollution prevention measures.

“Dardenne Creek has been on the EPA’s list of impaired streams for some time,” Batzel said. “We do have to do these things as a community to meet federal regulations.”

St. Peters will have to meet six minimum control measures to receive a new permit: public education and outreach; public involvement and participation; illicit discharge detection elimination; construction site runoff control; post-construction site runoff control; and pollution prevention and good housekeeping in municipal operations.

St. Peters’ storm water system encompasses 22 square miles, with 47 miles of waterways, 249 detention basins, 8,600 structures, 167 miles of pipe, 33 roadway bridges and culverts and three storm water pump stations.