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Water & Sewer Authorities Approve Fiscal 2021 Budgets

JUNE 24, 2020

In separate votes, the Williamsport Municipal Water Authority (WMWA) and Williamsport Sanitary Authority (WSA) adopted their fiscal 2021 budgets as presented at their Board of Directors’ meetings today.

Both budgets include rate increases that become effective January 1st, 2021.  John Baker, Director of Finance for the Authorities, explained that due to the economic impact of COVID-19, both Authorities have decided to defer the rate increase until January of 2021.  He also noted that the Authorities have not been charging late payment fees (penalties) since mid-March of this year and have also temporarily suspended account shut-offs, following the guidance of PA regulatory agencies.

Metered water consumption, the primary means of revenue for both Authorities, is projected to decline slightly, continuing a trend the Authorities have been tracking for many years.  This concern, as well as increasing operating costs and aggressive capital plans to address aging infrastructure is creating the need for rate increases for both water and sewer.

Baker explained that for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2020 and ending June 30, 2021, “the Water Authority’s budgeted revenues of $8.9 million includes a 5.0% increase in water consumptive rates effective January 1st, 2021, taking the rate from $5.80 to $6.10 per thousand gallons consumed.” “For the average family using 42,000 gallons of water per year, the increase would be $12.60 per year, or $1.05 per month.”

“In addition, the Authority is committing over $17.9 million in capital spending over the next four years, primarily in distribution system upgrades including projects on West Fourth Street, East Third Street, and several other streets where water mains need replaced.”  “Reservoir and dam maintenance is also scheduled in the upcoming fiscal years, which are significant dollars.”    Funding for these projects will come from water consumption revenues, board restricted cash balances, and potential state or federal grants.

Baker then explained that the “Sanitary Authority’s budgeted revenues of $15.4 million includes a 4.0% increase in sewer consumptive rates effective January 1st, 2021, with the rate moving from $12.30 to $12.80 per thousand gallons consumed.”  For every 42,000 gallons consumed, the annual increase would be $21.00 per year, or $1.75 per month.”  This 4.0% increase will apply for flat rate customers as well, increasing from $159.90 per quarter to $166.40 per quarter.  Woodward Township’s flat rate remains unchanged at $67.00 per month.  “The Authority’s budgeted expenses reflect increased costs of operating the Authority’s two treatment facilities.”  Operating and administrative expenses, less depreciation, are projected to be 6.0% higher, totaling $7.1 million.  The Authority’s annual debt service amount for Fiscal Year 2021 and the next two (2) years will average $6.5 million, increasing to $7.5 million in fiscal year 2024.  “The Authority is looking to aggressively continue upgrading and replacing or relining its’ collection system infrastructure.”  The funding for this capital plan, which totals over $7.8 million over the next four years, will come primarily from sewer consumption revenues, board restricted cash balances, and potential state or federal grants.  “The work that has been completed in the streets, as well as the work planned in future years, is substantial and unfortunately those costs continue to increase” he explained.

Regarding both Authorities, Baker stated “we will continue monitoring our actual revenues and expenses over the next six months, confirming budget assumptions and projections prior to the January 1st rate adjustment.”