WSSC cuts more than $131 million in FY21 budget

The Montgomery and Prince George’s County Councils recently met to approve WSSC Water’s nearly $1.5 billion Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 budget.

The approved budget will allow WSSC Water to continue protecting public health by upgrading aging pipes, plants and pumps across both counties to ensure safe, clean drinking water continues to flow to homes and businesses. WSSC Water’s FY21 budget also includes nearly $24 million to make water and sewer bills more affordable.

“WSSC Water is on the front lines of this global health crisis and this budget invests in crucial projects to protect public health by ensuring we continue to fulfill our clean-water mission,” said WSSC Water General Manager and CEO Carla A. Reid. “We’ve also increased funding to enhance our financial assistance programs and advance an innovative project designed to save our customers money. I thank both county councils for their commitment to public health and water affordability in approving this budget.”

Protecting Public Health and Fostering Economic Growth

The investment in water infrastructure helps protect public health, while creating jobs and fostering economic growth throughout Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.

Project highlights of the FY21 budget include:

  • $72.5 million to replace approximately 25 miles of small diameter water mains and invest in new technologies to better detect leaking pipes;
  • $55.5 million to replace approximately 20 miles of small diameter sewer mains partially funded by state grants from the Bay Restoration Fund;
  • $58.1 million to replace large diameter water mains and valves;
  • $69.5 million to replace large diameter sewer mains;
  • $61.3 million to construct the Piscataway Bioenergy Project using low-interest loans from the Maryland Department of the Environment’s Water Quality Financing Administration;
  • $24.1 million to continue planned upgrades to the Potomac and Patuxent Water Filtration Plants; and,
  • $7.6 million to continue upgrades to more energy efficient equipment and systems.

Water Affordability: Here to Help
Included in the budget is $3.2 million to help customers struggling to pay their water and sewer bills. As Covid-19 has residents spending more time in their homes – thereby using more water – WSSC Water is tackling the issue of water affordability head on. At the onset of this pandemic, WSSC Water took proactive steps to help customers and protect public health by suspending all water service shutoffs and waiving late fees. These customer-assistance measures continue. WSSC Water also stands ready to work one-on-one with customers to establish convenient payment plans. To learn more about WSSC Water’s assistance programs, visit the assistance page.

“We are committed to making water and sewer bills more affordable,” added Reid. “I encourage all customers who need financial assistance to reach out to us. We are here to help.”

Investing in Innovation Saves Customers Money

Another tool in WSSC Water’s affordability toolbox is Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI). The FY 21 budget includes $20.7 million to continue moving forward with AMI, which is currently in the planning phase. The innovative technology wirelessly communicates water usage directly from water meters using radio or cellular frequencies. Through a user-friendly portal, customers will have near real-time water usage information at their fingertips, allowing them to quickly recognize potential leaks and other home plumbing issues – thereby reducing bills, saving money and making water more affordable.

The Budget Impact of Covid-19

The sudden economic downturn caused by the Covid-19 pandemic has had a major economic impact on WSSC Water’s budget. Due to decreased water usage from commercial customers and increased unemployment impacting residential customers, WSSC Water projects a $148 million loss in revenue during the remainder of FY20 and throughout FY21. To offset these losses, WSSC Water has identified more than $131 million in targeted budget cuts ($61.1 million in FY20; $70.2 million in FY21), 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. WSSC Water is closely monitoring the financial impact of Covid-19 to determine if more budget reductions will be necessary.

New Rates

The FY21 budget includes a six 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 $11.38 in their bill. The proposed rate increase is below limits set by both Montgomery and Prince George’s county councils when they approved WSSC Water’s Spending Affordability Guidelines. The FY 21 budget and new rates begin on July 1, 2020. Revenue generated by the new rates will help repair and replace aging infrastructure – creating jobs and ensuring customers continue to receive unparalleled water quality.

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:

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