“OA” Drainage Assessments

by | Nov 29, 2022

What Does an “OA” Drainage Assessment on my Property Tax Pay For?

The “OA” designation on your real estate property tax bill stands for “other assessment” and includes assessments for drainage.  Many of my tax bills include those and I pay drainage assessments yearly. 

The laws and procedures on drainage are numerous and there are all kinds of technical considerations with how water flows – or doesn’t flow.  Far too much for a blog so here is a personal example.

When purchasing a house in the country we were thrilled with the small creek that runs through the yard.  It turns out that “creek” is actually a regulated drain.  That means that the County, through it’s Drainage Board, is responsible for certain maintenance costs and has the right to access our “creek.”

So each year we pay an assessment, like our neighbors, and it goes into an account overseen by our Drainage Board.  This Board then hires someone (through another process) to spray the area so it does not get overrun with growth and back water up onto my land.

No ditch in your yard and still an assessment?  That means that you are in the “watershed” for one.  In my rural area generally speaking you are highly likely to be in a watershed (or two) for  your property even if you do not see water.  The simplest way to think of a watershed is an area where the rainwater would all flow to a common place – like my backyard creek.   For example, a property that does not touch the ditch but water would run off it into that ditch.

As a lawyer I have had occasion to learn far more than I ever thought when buying my property with a “creek.”  This is an incredibly broad and brief introduction to the concepts of drainage.  There are great resources out there to learn more and with polite inquiries your local elected officials can explain your specific assessments.

Candace D. Armstrong

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