Laurel, Md. – May 13, 2021: In their annual bi-county meeting held virtually today, the Montgomery and Prince George’s County Councils unanimously approved WSSC Water’s $1.556 billion Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 budget. The approved budget will allow WSSC Water to protect public health by upgrading aging infrastructure across both counties to ensure safe, clean drinking water continues to flow to homes and businesses. Because of COVID-19’s economic impact, WSSC Water’s FY22 budget also includes $3.3 million – a $100,000 increase from the current fiscal year budget – to help more customers afford their water/sewer bills. There were no changes to WSSC Water’s fixed fees.
“This budget invests in key upgrades to our plants, pipes and pumps to protect public health while enhancing our financial assistance programs to help more customers in need,” said WSSC Water General Manager and CEO Carla A. Reid. “Investing in these infrastructure upgrades also creates jobs and fosters economic development in both counties. I thank both county councils for their commitment to public health and water affordability in approving this budget.”
Project highlights of the FY22 budget include:
- $83.6 million to replace approximately 31 miles of small diameter water mains;
- $61.7 million for large diameter water mains and large valve rehabilitation, including replacement of 6.5 miles of large diameter water mains;
- $71.1 million to rehabilitate approximately 31 miles of small diameter sewer mains and lateral lines, which is partially funded by state grants from the Bay Restoration Fund;
- $58.6 million to rehabilitate 14.4 miles of large and small diameter sewer mains in environmentally sensitive areas;
- $97.9 million for construction of the Piscataway Bioenergy Project using low-interest loans from the Maryland Department of the Environment’s Water Quality Financing Administration;
- $21.1 million to continue planned upgrades to the Potomac and Patuxent Water Filtration Plants;
- $20 million to upgrade/replace five wastewater pumping stations; and
- $3.6 million to continue upgrades to more energy efficient equipment and systems.
The FY 22 budget includes a 5.9 percent average rate increase. With the proposed increase, a typical customer with a family of three, using 55 gallons of water per person, per day, would see a quarterly increase of $11.83 in their bill. The proposed rate increase conforms with limits set by both Montgomery and Prince George’s county councils when they approved WSSC Water’s Spending Affordability Guidelines. The FY 22 budget and new rates begin on July 1, 2021. Revenue generated by the new rates will help repair and replace aging infrastructure – creating jobs and ensuring customers continue to receive unparalleled water quality.
Financial Assistance: WSSC Water is Here to Help
With late fees resuming for customers on June 1, 2021, except for those enrolled in the Customer Assistance Program (CAP), WSSC Water is strongly encouraging customers to learn more about its enhanced portfolio of financial assistance programs.
Any customer, including commercial and government accounts, can establish a convenient payment plan. There is no minimum payment required. WSSC Water will work with customers to set up a flexible plan that fits any budget and enables them to pay what they can afford. To establish a payment plan, please call our Customer Service Advisors at 301-206-4001, Monday – Friday, 7:30 a.m.–7:00 p.m.
Customer Assistance Program
We will continue waiving late fees for those enrolled in CAP, which provides a credit for fixed fees (including Bay Restoration Fund fee collected on behalf of the state of Maryland) up to $43 per quarter or $172 per year. To enroll, customers must first apply for energy assistance directly through the Maryland Office of Home Energy Programs (OHEP). More than 14,500 customers are currently enrolled in CAP. Customers that qualify for OHEP assistance will automatically be enrolled in CAP. Find more at wsscwater.com/cap.
In collaboration with The Salvation Army, the WSSC Water Fund helps residential customers in financial need pay their water/sewer bills. Since the pandemic began, 881 households have received $386,000 in assistance from the Water Fund; 100 percent of all donations go directly to those in need. Customers can make multiple requests for help with water/sewer bills, up to $500 per year. To make a tax-deductible donation or to request assistance, go to wsscwater.com/waterfund.
The Budget Impact of COVID-19
More than one year into the pandemic, WSSC Water is experiencing a 74 percent increase in the amount of money owed by customers compared to before the pandemic began. As of May 12, 2021, more than $63 million is past due (approximately 89,000 accounts) compared to $36 million past due (about 73,000 accounts) at the end of February 2020.
WSSC Water experienced $31.1 million in lost revenue in FY 20 and is currently projecting a $59 million revenue loss in FY 21. To offset these losses, WSSC Water has identified more than $130 million in one-time targeted budget cuts ($57.4 million in FY 20; $72.7 million in FY 21), while ensuring mission-critical functions remain fully funded. This includes fully funding the purchase of personal protection equipment to ensure the continued safety of frontline employees. If past due accounts continue to increase, it is possible that projected FY 21 revenue losses will grow and continue into FY 22. WSSC Water is closely monitoring the financial impact of COVID-19 to determine if more budget reductions will be necessary.
The two county councils held their annual bi-county meeting to approve WSSC Water’s budget, along with the budgets for the bi-county portion of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, Central Administrative Services and the Washington Suburban Transit Commission. The budget document can be viewed here: wsscwater.com/fin.