ROCKVILLE – Many residents will be required to pay more for water on July 1 due to a rate increase with the start of an upcoming inauguration of the new structure.
The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC), which supplies water and sewer services to customers in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties, adopted a new rate structure – the way the company charges customers for water – during its monthly meeting in Laurel June 19. The commission also elected its new chairperson, Chris Lawson, for FY ’20.
“Today’s adoption of a modern and simplified rate structure is the culmination of a deliberate process that focused extensively on transparency and public outreach,” said Lawson.
Fiscal year 2020 will be the first time in decades that WSSC’s rate structure has changed. As for customer bills, they had increased a few times during the past 10 years, most recently in fiscal year 2019, according to Montgomery County Council legislative analyst Keith Levchenko in an Oct. 9, 2018 memo for the Transportation Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Committee. The two counties must agree on rate increases.
In May, both Montgomery and Prince George’s Councils agreed to an FY20 rate increase, which is equivalent to a 5.0% rate increase. The 5% rate increase is the same level of increase that was agreed upon by both councils in last October during their FY20 spending control limits.
Bethesda resident Richard Boltuck filed a complaint within the past five years against WSSC to the Maryland Public Services Commission, claiming that WSSC was unfairly impacting larger families.
Then, the Maryland Public Service Commission issued a directive to WSSC to change its rate structure after ruling that the 16- tier structure was “unreasonable,” because it was “unduly preferential to low-usage customers,” according to the news release.
The newly adopted rate structure consists of “a four-tier, including block rate structure, meaning that the price increases as customers use more water and enter higher tiers,” WSSC officials wrote in a news release.
A family of three that uses the “average” amount of water per quarter – around 15,000 gallons – will see their quarterly bill increase by about $4 under the new rate and rate-structure change. The “average” amount of water usage is approximately 55 gallons per person per day.
WSSC officials hosted and joined more than 30 meetings, which included opportunities for residents to weigh in since Spring 2017, according to the news release. The commission received a total of 300 comments on the proposed rate-structure changes. Approximately 2,500 customers attended those meetings.
“We will continue to reach out to customers to ensure they are aware of this change, along with the other ways we are modernizing and improving our approach to customer service,” said WSSC General Manager and CEO Carla Reid.
In the existing rate structure, customers are divided into tiers. The difference was WSSC reduced the number of tiers and changed the amount of water and cost in each grouping.
“Nationally renowned rate-structure experts, an authority on Maryland water conservation, a consumer advocate and affordability expert, and extensive customer outreach” were “involved” in developing the new rate structure. Starting July 1, the new structure will replace the one in effect since 1992, according to the news release.
About 30 percent of customers’ rates will decrease slightly overall, based on where in the four tiers of water usage their water consumption lies.
WSSC staff wrote in a news release that the rate-structure changes will continue to encourage customers in both counties to conserve water by charging residents more.
Three Montgomery commissioners and three Prince George’s commissioners govern WSSC. The respective county executives appoint them, and the respective councils confirm them for four-year terms. The commission’s FY20 operating and capital budget is nearly $1.5 billion.
Customers may visit www.wsscwater.com/billchanges to learn more about the new rate structure and to use a rate calculator to estimate their future bills.