Office of Drain Commissioner
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a county drain?
Drains are open channels, ditches, streams, pipes, retention ponds or swales that convey storm water downward to a drainage basin. Drains become county drains when property owners or a local village, city or township petition the Drain Commissioner to establish a county drain and all legal requirements are met. Plat drain basins become county drains through a 433 agreement. Every drain has an associated county drainage district responsible for maintaining the drain.
What is a drainage district?
A drainage district is a legally established area of land draining to a common outlet, sometimes also called a watershed or a drainage basin. Drainage district boundaries rarely correspond to the political boundaries of townships or counties. Instead, they are determined by the natural topography of the land - the natural and built elevations and drainage flow patterns of an area.
What is a drain assessment?
County drainage districts are separate public corporations with their own financial function. Each drainage district is supported by drain assessments that cover the cost of maintaining the drainage system. County drains are not maintained by Kalamazoo County general fund taxes. An assessment has two parts: 1) the total cost of the current project multiplied by 2), the apportionment, or proportion, assigned to the party based on benefit.
Where is the county storm drain for which I am being assessed?
The Kalamazoo County Drain Office has maps that can show the location of your property within the drainage district, and your corresponding county drain. These documents will also be available at the Day of Review. All properties in a drainage district contribute storm water to the county drain regardless of property elevation and distance to the drain.
Why would I receive more than one special assessment notice?
Each notice informs you of a Drain Special Assessment for a different drainage district. Your property can be in multiple drainage districts because storm water moves from smaller watersheds through larger watersheds, ultimately discharging to the Great Lakes. For example, if your property is located in a small watershed that is "nested" inside a larger watershed, you could receive an assessment for each district, if they are both being assessed in the same year.
Is this the only way I would receive multiple drain assessments in one year?
No. Rainfall falling on different parts of your property may flow in different directions to different drains and more than one of those drainage districts may be assessed in one year.
How are assessments determined?
The law requires that assessments be based on the apportionment of benefits as determined by the Drain Commissioner. All properties within the drainage district are apportioned using factors such as size of the parcel, land use, and proximity to the drain within the district. Drainage is considered as an interdependent system with the entire system benefiting from maintenance of the common outlet.
Do all property owners pay drain assessments?
All property owners within a drainage district receive an assessment, unless specifically exempted by law. In addition, your local village, city or township; Kalamazoo County; the Road Commission of Kalamazoo County; and the Michigan Department of Transportation - as appropriate - also may receive an assessment for a portion of the maintenance costs. The Drain Code does not exempt most nonprofit or religious properties from assessment.
I recently purchased my property. Why am I being billed for work done prior to my ownership?
Although the work for which you are being assessed may have been completed prior to your purchase of the land, the Drain Code requires that assessments be levied to the property, and assessed to the current owner of record. In most cases, the work performed will benefit the property for years to come.
What is a Day of Review, and what if I cannot attend?
A Day of Review is held to review the apportionment of benefits when apportionments are newly created or changed. Apportionments are the percentage of the total cost assessed. Costs for projects may change but apportionments will not change unless all parties are notified and a Day of Review is held. Examples of how apportionments might change include changing the drainage district boundaries or if land use changes dramatically over time. If you are unable to attend the Day of Review and have questions regarding your assessment of the assessment process, please call the Kalamazoo County Drain Office.
What happens if I disagree with the proposed assessment for my property?
Appeal of the Drain Special Assessments may be made to the Kalamazoo County Probate Court within 10 days after the Day of Review.