Council Committee recommends reducing WSSC water rate increase from 9% to 6%
A county council committee has recommended raising water rates in Montgomery County for the coming year, but not as high as a utility is pushing for.
The council’s transport and environment committee said Thursday it supported a 6% increase. The Washington Suburban Health Commission is calling for a 9% increase.
The committee said it could potentially consider increasing its recommendation to 7%, as suggested in a memo by County Executive Marc Elrich to Council Members.
In his memo, Elrich pointed out that he is still chatting with Prince George County officials to see if 7% is a good number.
Committee members, however, requested that WSSC officials provide more information on why 7% is needed. They asked the utility to explain the drop in income it has had due to overdue accounts since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, and the lack of state and federal aid it has received compared to local governments in the region.
Council Chairman Tom Hucker, chairman of the commission, said he understands WSSC has higher costs, such as in infrastructure, and has lost revenue due to an increased number of accounts suffering.
Hucker added, however, that many residents of the county are still struggling financially due to the coronavirus pandemic and have had to resort to food aid. County officials have offered free bus service and capped rent increases to help these residents, he said.
Committee member Keith Levchenko said the county council did not need to hold its final vote on proposed water tariffs until May, as part of the county’s overall budget process.
By law, Montgomery County Council and Prince George Council must agree to a rate increase. Otherwise, the WSSC request could take effect.
The average quarterly water bill for Montgomery and Prince George counties is currently $ 241.04. The WSSC’s proposal for a 9% rate hike would bring that amount to $ 262.70, an increase of $ 21.66.
The proposed rate is the maximum increase that taxpayers could pay. In reality, the price increase could be less.
The recent approved rate increases are:
- Fiscal year 2022: 5.9%
- Fiscal year 2021: 7%. The WSSC ultimately set a 6% increase.
- Financial year 2020: 5%
- Fiscal 2019: The two counties disagree, with Montgomery County supporting the highest maximum increase of 5%, while Prince George County supporting a 4% increase. WSSC set the rate at 4.5%
- 2018 financial year: 3.5%
Joe Beach, deputy director general of administration at WSSC, told committee members that the public service expects to have details of how a 6% increase would affect the public service budget by mid -January.
Steve Bohnel can be contacted at [email protected]