Baltimore, City of
Stormwater Program Development
In the past, the City of Baltimore utilized motor vehicle tax revenue to fund streets drainage maintenance. But faced with a new, more stringent NPDES permit and the high costs of compliance with the permit and the Chesapeake Bay rules, the City of Baltimore’s Bureau of Water and Wastewater was interested in developing a more stable source of revenue for their stormwater management activities. The City looked to RFC to serve as the program manager for developing a new stormwater program and implementing an impervious area-based fee to fund the program. In addition, a state law passed in April 2012 required that the City implement the fee on a compressed time schedule, mandating that it be in place by July 1, 2013.
To begin the project, RFC completed a gap analysis which charted the City’s path to implementation of the fee. RFC provided the Bureau with comprehensive implementation services including: policy and program development, financial analysis, billing data development, billing system and customer relationship tools, business process development and mapping, standard operation procedure documentation, staff training, and public outreach assistance. RFC developed stormwater billing data for each of the over 220,000 parcels within the City. The fee is billed on the City’s existing water utility bill and RFC built an innovative, comprehensive application to maintain and manage customer data. This application is particularly crucial because the City’s billing system lacks tools to manage the complex parcel-account associations, credits, discounts and other features of the rate structure.
With the implementation of a new fee, it has been critical to communicate the impacts of the fee to customers and stakeholders. RFC assisted the City with the development and implementation of a communication plan to support the overall public information program. RFC staff also worked with Department of Public Works attorneys to draft policies, address citizen concerns, manage relationships with larger rate-payers, and provide analyses for consideration by City Council. RFC consultants provided one-on-one assistance to hundreds of stormwater utility customers throughout the City. In addition, RFC worked extensively with the Bureau to create processes that utilize existing City resources to efficiently respond to customer needs. Through this iterative process, RFC and the City were able to establish a set of processes that are currently being used to effectively handle customer service concerns.
The fee went into effect on July 1, 2013 and customers received their first quarterly charges in mid-September 2013. The fee is providing the City with a stable source of revenue for its stormwater management program, and RFC continues to provide ongoing billing, policy and customer service support to the City.
Cost of Service, Rate, and Financial Consulting
Since 2006, RFC has been assisting the City of Baltimore’s Bureau of Water and Wastewater on multi-year contracts to provide cost of service, rate, and financial consulting services for their water and wastewater operations.
As part of these contracts, RFC has performed cost of service-based water and wastewater studies to update the Bureau’s rate-setting methodology, develop rates, and provide rate structure recommendations that equitably assign costs to different customer classes. As part of the wastewater cost of service study, the RFC team examined the Industrial Surcharge Program designed to recover operation and maintenance costs incurred at the City’s treatment plants for removing excess pollutant loadings from wastewater.
RFC has also supported financial and rate negotiations with the City’s interjurisdictional customers, and provided full-time, temporary assistance on-site with the Bureau to augment annual budgeting and plan for debt issuances to fund the utility capital programs.
RFC has provided additional support for the planning and prioritization of the Bureau’s capital program. One key to identifying the annual level of investment was a comprehensive analysis of the local impacts on customer affordability. Combining data from the US Census Bureau, Baltimore CityStats, and the financial planning models, RFC was able to deliver visualizations that showed anticipated impacts to customers of the City. The data also provided the context of the types of people impacted and where in the City they reside, which is being used to develop a more effective customer outreach and affordability program.
Organizational Optimization Initiative
The City of Baltimore’s Bureau of Water and Wastewater was interested in optimizing the operations and structure of the organization. They wanted to enhance organizational alignment and operational efficiency, identify organizational structure optimization opportunities, and establish a framework to support the Bureau leadership team’s vision for continual improvement in operational performance. To accomplish these objectives, RFC is conducting an organizational assessment program for the Bureau, called the Organizational Optimization Initiative (or O2I).
RFC was charged with examining the current organizational structure of the Bureau and making recommendations to improve efficiency based on our subject matter expertise and general industry best practices. RFC examined the organizational structure and business operations of the Bureau’s approximately 2,000 budgeted positions in a “deep-dive” evaluation process, and worked extensively with the Bureau’s senior management team to define structural and workforce modifications that would enhance the Bureau’s effectiveness and efficiency. RFC recommended structural enhancements that included:
- Reducing the Bureau’s nine Divisions to five Areas
- Defining staffing and skill requirements for near- and long-term staffing goals
- Identifying support services that the Bureau would need to achieve its goals (e.g., HR Support, Training and Development, Fleet Management, IT, and Purchasing/Procurement)
RFC provided the Bureau with a detailed O2I Plan that the Bureau is now using as a guide in their implementation efforts.
RFC is now conducting an organizational assessment of the remainder of the Public Works Department to include solid waste and support and administrative functions, and we are also assisting with the development of a Department-wide strategic plan for the City’s Public Works Department.