PSB approves budget, increase to rates and fees

PSB approves budget, increase to rates and fees
Posted on 01/19/2021
Upson Drive Water Main and Sanitary Sewer Improvements project

Citing the need to ensure reliable services for the community, the Public Service Board approved the fiscal year 2021-2022 budget, which includes slight increases to rates and fees. The combined $508M budget for water, wastewater and stormwater services will result in a monthly increase of $1.37 for a typical residential customer.

“There is a constant balancing act to invest in new water resources to meet the needs of our children and grandchildren," said outgoing PSB member Henry Gallardo, who served eight years on the board.

The increase in stormwater fees, which results in a 26-cent increase to the monthly charge for a typical home, will allow for the completion of additional flood control projects and provide for public safety improvements. Initially, EPWater proposed no increase in stormwater fees, but during the board’s November meeting, PSB members asked to see options that included an increase.

“If we make these small incremental increases in stormwater fees, then we will prevent a future one-time hit of a larger increase that ratepayers will have to absorb,” said Terri Garcia, PSB Secretary-Treasurer.

Funding priorities for EPWater

 Key funding priorities driving the slight increase include securing El Paso’s future water supply, improving system reliability through rehabilitation of aging infrastructure, and expanding systems for city growth. Investing in these priorities will support long-term sustainability for customers.

“El Paso Water continues to strengthen its portfolio of water resources by investing in infrastructure and responsibly managing our sources,” said John Balliew, EPWater President/CEO. “In a challenging year for many, EPWater and our essential workers continued to deliver for our customers.”

Capital improvement projects for the new fiscal year include: new wells, rehabilitating several water tanks and pipelines, upgrades at five water and wastewater treatment plants, and technology and facility upgrades to increase efficiency of operations. EPWater will also launch the first phase of a multi-year project that will take treated Rio Grande water during plentiful seasons and use it to recharge the Hueco Bolson to improve drought resilience.

Helping our community

 The past year was a challenging one for the entire city, as residents, businesses and entities like EPWater navigated their way through a pandemic.

“Our eyes are wide open to the struggles that many families in our community are facing as a result of the pandemic,” Gallardo said. The PSB directed EPWater to scale back on projected rate increases based on last year’s financial forecasts.

The utility was able to help 2,437 customers, including 44 businesses, with overdue water bills through CARES Act funding secured by the City of El Paso. EPWater joined efforts with Amistad and Project Bravo, that also received CARES Act funding to assist customers who had a hard time paying their bills. In total, $675,734 was used to help the community. EPWater is continuing to work with non-profit partners and the City of El Paso to pursue additional grant funding to help customers impacted by COVID-19.

EPWater’s rate structure will continue to provide relief for low water users while charging more for high-water users. Customers using less than 4 CCFs (2,990 gallons) of water in any given month will receive a waiver of the $11.82 Water Supply Replacement Charge.

The budget, rates and fees will go into effect at the start of the fiscal year, which begins March 1, 2021.

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