Prince George's and Montgomery Counties Approve WSSC's FY15 Budget

Heavy focus on enhancing water and sewer service through infrastructure improvements

| News Release

OFFICE OF COMMUNICATIONS AND COMMUNITY RELATIONS

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Laurel – May 08, 2014: The Prince George's and Montgomery County councils today approved the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission's (WSSC) Fiscal 2015 (FY15) operating and capital budget of $1.3 billion. The new spending plan focuses on financing water and sewer reconstruction programs, inspection and repair of critical water and sewer infrastructure. The new budget calls for a 5.5 percent rate increase, which amounts to an increase of $4.09 per month for a customer who uses 210 gallons of water per day. The FY15 budget is $108.4 million (7.5 percent) less than the FY14 budget.

Highlights of the FY'15 budget include:

  • Funding of $26 million for the large diameter Pre-stressed Concrete Cylinder Pipe (PCCP) program to provide inspections of the PCCP and monitoring to detect weaknesses. This includes funding to establish a program to inspect, repair and replace large valves.
  • Replacement of 55 miles, and repair or relining of 5 miles of smaller mains, house connections and large meters and vaults. (That's about the length of the Capital Beltway.)
  • More than $114 million in sewer rehabilitation in environmentally sensitive areas.
  • Scheduled design and construction of 59 capital projects generating or sustaining an estimated 4,200 local construction jobs.

The 5.5 percent increase is the lowest since 2007 and reflects WSSC's ongoing effort to lower the trajectory of rate increases. The utility has begun implementing recommendations of a study by the Bi-County Infrastructure Financing Working Group which concluded its work and presented its findings to Commissioners in February 2014. Mindful of the increasing burden that rate increases can have on customers, WSSC plans to ask the Maryland Legislature for permission to enact a Customer Affordability Program next year for customers facing financial hardship.

"We recognize that the pace of rate increases is not sustainable going forward; but, the reality is that we simply can't afford not to replace an aging water and sewer system," said WSSC General Manager/CEO Jerry N. Johnson. "The Working Group provided some excellent ideas to stabilize rates for our customers, and we are moving forward prudently, but expeditiously, on these recommendations."

WSSC has also been aggressive in cutting costs with innovative and environmentally conscious programs. This past year, WSSC began operating solar power systems at two of its wastewater treatment plants, supplying an average of 17 percent of the electrical needs and saving $3.5 million over the course of a 20 year power purchasing agreement. In the spring of 2008, the Commission began using electricity generated by a wind farm in southwestern Pennsylvania, or approximately 65,000-megawatt hours of power a year. Wind power accounts for 28 percent of WSSC's total electric consumption. In addition, more than 100,000 customers are now taking advantage of WSSC's Go Green electronic billing, which reduces payment processing and paper printing costs, as well as postage for the utility and customers.

WSSC is also in the process of establishing a comprehensive Asset Management Program (AMP). When completed, all WSSC facilities will have been meticulously mapped to provide optimal maintenance and replacement schedules allowing the strategic spending of customer dollars. WSSC has also begun implementing an innovative procurement strategy, Supply Chain Management (SCM). SCM is expected to save millions of dollars and provide better dollar value for all goods and services purchased by the utility.

"I wish we could say we will see the day when we never need rate increases. It's hard on the customers," said WSSC Commission Chair Gene Counihan. "But conservation is working which means we produce less water which in turn reduces our revenue. Yet costs keep going up. Cutting costs and increasing efficiency is a strategy that is beginning to pay dividends."

The Commission is expected to adopt and enact the budget at its meeting on May 21. A copy of the proposed FY15 budget can be found on WSSC's website

For 100 years, WSSC has proudly served the citizens of Prince George’s and Montgomery counties – providing drinking water that has always met strict Safe Drinking Water Act standards and protecting the environment through vital water resource recovery services. Our vision is to be THE world-class water utility, where excellent products and services are always on tap.

 

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