WSSC Infrastructure Tax Letter
This is a contributed blog post.
July 6, 2016
Thomas V. Miller, Jr., President, Maryland Senate
Michael Busch, Speaker, Maryland House of Delegates
100 State Circle
Annapolis, Maryland 21401-1925
Dear President Miller and Speaker Busch:
We, the members of the Customer Advisory Board (CAB), are writing to advocate for the adoption of an “Infrastructure Tax.”
The WSSC CAB is responsible for representing the interests of WSSC rate-payers to WSSC Commissioners and the WSSC General Manager. WSSC’s top priority should be to reliably deliver water and sewer services to WSSC rate-payers at a fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory rate.
The enormous backlog of maintenance work on WSSC’s pipe and facility infrastructure present a challenge to the ability of the water and sewer utility to reliably deliver it services to rate-payers. At the present rate, it will take 100 years to address the entire backlog of work that must be done WSSC’s infrastructure. To accommodate the increasing demands presented by an aging water and sewer delivery system, WSSC requires an increase in revenues.
WSSC is a self-funded, budget-neutral entity that raises its revenues entirely from the rate-payers it serves. WSSC finds itself continually facing the budgetary challenges presented both by water successful conservation efforts that have decreased rate-payer contributions to a largely fixed-cost system and by growing populations that have required an expansion of the utility’s capabilities.
Due to evolving rate-payer use patterns, WSSC has begun to rely on fixed fee assessments on every rate-payer regardless of use. This amounts to an effectively regressive tax that disproportionately places a burden on those who are least able to afford these fees. WSSC does maintain a funding mechanism to provide emergency relief to the most needy families in Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties, but this support provides inadequate relief to our entire population of needy families.
WSSC’s infrastructure requires greater investment that is beyond the utility’s current means. Rate-payers, who are also taxpayers, are increasingly frustrated by obfuscated fees that are regressive in nature. We view water and sewer service as a public utility that benefits all, without which none in our society can function.
The WSSC CAB would like to propose that the Maryland General Assembly consider adopting a statewide, dedicated, and progressive payroll “Infrastructure Tax.” Such an Infrastructure Tax would place the greatest burden on those most able to afford the cost of improving our infrastructure while providing a steady annual dedicated revenue stream that could be made available for capital infusions into public utilities including but not limited to water, sewer, electric, communications, and transportation infrastructure.
We strongly urge you to consider initiating discussion on the urgent need for maintaining our crumbling infrastructure in the 2017 Legislative Session.
Thank you for your consideration of this matter.
Vince Berg, Chair, WSSC CAB
Jordan Cooper, WSSC Stakeholder Representative
John Lee, WSSC Stakeholder Representative
Nancy Floreen, President, Montgomery County Council
Derrick Davis, Chair, Prince George’s County Council
Fausto Bayonet, Chair, WSSC Commission
Carla Reid, General Manager, WSSC
 WSSC maintains 5,600 miles of water lines and currently replaces these lines at a rate of 55 miles per year at a cost of $1.5 million per mile. It would take just shy of 102 years at this rate to replace all of these lines, which doesn’t account for line expansion and stress due to population growth that further exacerbates this issue.
 Some WSSC pipes have been in continuous usage for 98 years, and the system has grown to serve 1.8 million people. Rate-payers currently experience interruption of water service due to 1,819 water main breaks last year alone, while 700-1,100 homes each year experience home sewer backups that lead to costly clean up and unsuitable living conditions.
 Due to pipe leakage, WSSC experiences a 17-19% loss rate for potable water between water treatment plants and the rate-payer’s faucet (in addition to surface and storm water infiltration into the system which adds additional costs), which is almost double the national loss rate and which is subsidized by increased rates charged to all WSSC customers.
This was originally posted in Revealing Our Humanity.