WSSC Approves Proposed Budget, Average Customer’s Bill Could Rise by $4.20 Per Month
The Commissioners of the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) voted Wednesday to approve the preliminary FY16 operating and capital budget of $1.4 billion, according to a WSSC news release.
A formal budget document is now being prepared for discussion and review in advance of public hearings in February 2015. The proposed budget must be submitted to both the Prince George’s and Montgomery County councils by March 1, 2015.
After preliminary consultations with both counties WSSC is shifting much of the proposed increase to the Account Maintenance Fee (AMF) which has not gone up in 24 years. The AMF reflects what it costs to bring water to every home and business; including meters, meter readers, and billing. In addition, the AMF will now include an infrastructure component to pay for such needs as repairing and replacing water mains.
The AMF will go from the current $11 to $16. The infrastructure component will be phased in; $6 dollars the first year, and another $6 the second year, followed by a 5-year freeze on the fee.
The proposed water usage rate increase will be 1% for FY16. Without the proposed fee increase, the water usage rate would rise by 6%. The rate increase combined with the increase in the Ready to Serve Charge would add approximately $4.20 per month to the bill of a customer who uses 160 gallons of water per day.
“WSSC, like many other water utilities around the country, is facing a financial conundrum. While the number of customers we serve continues to grow, overall water consumption is dropping. Yet, the fixed costs required to run a water distribution and sanitary sewer system continue to rise,” said Jerry N. Johnson, WSSC General Manager/CEO. “This budget takes an important step in addressing this issue by shifting certain fixed costs from fluctuating water usage rates to the predictable and transparent Ready to Serve Charge.”
The proposed changes to customers’ bills would not bring in additional revenue. The largest portion of a customer’s bill would still be based on the volume of water used and within a customer’s control. By reducing the reliance on revenues based on water usage, future usage rate increases would be smaller than they are under the current billing methodology.
As is the case nationally, WSSC faces the challenge of balancing increasing costs for infrastructure and operations with affordability to our customers. The Commission is again seeking legislation from the Maryland General Assembly to establish a Customer Affordability Program (CAP). The FY16 budget includes $1.7 million in revenue offsets to create, implement and begin administering a CAP.
The formal budget document will be available on January 15, 2015. It will be posted on WSSC’s website at http://www.wsscwater.com/home/jsp/content/budget-index.faces. WSSC will utilize social media to alert the public when the budget is available online. Public hearings on the FY16 proposed budget are scheduled for:
Montgomery County Prince George’s County
February 4, 2015 7:30 p.m. February 5, 2015 at 7:30 p.m.
The Stella B. Werner Office Building The RMS Building- Room 308
100 Maryland Avenue, 7th Floor 1400 McCormick Drive
Rockville, MD Largo, MD
In case of inclement weather on either date, the public hearing will be held at 7:30 p.m. on February 11, 2015 in the Commission Auditorium at WSSC, 14501 Sweitzer Lane, Laurel, MD 20707.
Written comments can be submitted electronically to BudgetGroup@wsscwater.com, or mailed to Acting Budget Group Leader, WSSC, 14501 Sweitzer Lane, Laurel, MD, 20707 until February 17, 2015.