DPW Proposes Simplified Billing Assistance Program
Thursday Nov 29th, 2018
Rate Adjustment Request Sees City Turning the Corner on Investments
The Baltimore City Department of Public Works (DPW) is requesting the Board of Estimates to approve a single, simplified, water billing assistance program for Baltimore’s most financially vulnerable customers. In addition, the request seeks a three-year series of rate adjustments, beginning July 2019, that continues repairing and maintaining our long-neglected water systems.
“I am committed to protecting our residents and communities, creating a healthy City, and stabilizing water rates,” said DPW Director Rudolph S. Chow, P.E. “This proposal helps get us there.”
Assisting Vulnerable Customers
DPW is proposing a new payment assistance program that will allow us to help more low-income customers who are struggling to pay their water bills. Starting in July 2019, for qualifying households the new Baltimore H2O Assists program:
- Reduces the water and sewer use charges by 43 percent
- Removes both the Bay Restoration and Stormwater Remediation fees from the bill
- Provides assistance before customers fall behind on their bills
- Slashes a “typical” monthly bill from $99.88 per month to $61.16.
Baltimore City customers with a household income at or below 175 percent of the federal poverty level (currently $36,365 for a household of three) would be eligible for the program. Customers who already qualify for many common assistance programs will likely qualify for Baltimore H2O Assists.
DPW would continue to offer grants and payment plans to customers who need help catching up on their bills.
DPW’s request of the Board of Estimates seeks a series of three annual increases of approximately 9 percent each, also beginning on July 1, 2019. While each customer’s situation is unique, a typical bill for a family of three would rise by $8 per month. This includes 9 percent increases to the Stormwater Remediation charge. That charge has been unchanged since its introduction in 2013.
DPW anticipates that as early as fiscal year 2023 rate increases may begin to slow as the crucial multi-billion dollar construction program over the last few years begins to catch up with the backlog of aging infrastructure. As soon as fiscal year 2027 the rates should reach a steady state, with increases closer to the rate of inflation.
Fixing the Water System; Holding Down Costs
In previous decades Baltimore took an “out of sight, out of mind” approach to its infrastructure. That changed as major water and sewer main breaks caused service disruptions and environmental hazards. Now, instead of just reacting to infrastructure failures, we are investing intelligently in Baltimore in order to prevent service disruptions.
Our Asset Management program assesses the condition of our pipes and plants, and sets in motion any needed repairs.
We have relined, repaired, replaced, rebuilt, or cleaned more than 300 miles of sewer mains under our Sanitary Sewer Consent Decree (that’s further than the Ravens travel to play the Cleveland Browns), and rehabbed or rebuilt at least 15 miles of water mains every year since 2013.
DPW continues pursuing alternate, lower-cost financing plans, such as the $202 million in Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) bonds secured this year. Those bonds save about $40 million compared to traditional borrowing.
Baltimore water customers are encouraged to attend one of a series of “DPW in the Community” meetings in December to learn more about our programs and plans, including Baltimore H2O Assists and the proposed rate increase. Meetings are already set for 6-8 p.m. Dec. 11 at Gospel Tabernacle Baptist Church, 3100 Walbrook Ave.; 6-8 p.m. Dec. 12 at National Federation of the Blind, 200 E. Wells St.; and 9 a.m. to noon Dec. 15 at the New Waverly United Methodist Church, 644 E. 33rd St. More dates and locations will be announced soon.