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PSB reviews FY 2023-24 proposed budget, rates and fees

 El Paso Water staff presented the proposed Fiscal Year 2023-24 Water/Wastewater and Stormwater budgets to the Public Service Board on Tuesday evening, with a record Capital Improvement Project budget in water and wastewater.

If approved, customers will see an increase of $9.03 per month on the typical residential bill for water, wastewater and stormwater charges, which totals about a 13% increase over last year’s bill.

“A combination of inflation, hiring and retention challenges, as well as the need for critical investments in our system, contribute to the increases,” said EPWater President and CEO John Balliew. “We strive to balance those needs while protecting affordability.”

EPWater is managing myriad challenges amid urgent infrastructure needs, Balliew said. Recent customer feedback – via surveys and focus groups – is reflected in the utility’s funding priorities, which include:

  • Reliability – $428 million: Water and wastewater pipes, tanks, plants and pump stations are overdue for replacement and rehabilitation.
  • Water supply – $53 million: Well rehab and new well construction are included, as well as the Aquifer Storage and Recovery Project in northeast El Paso.
  • Flood control – $70 million: Projects focus on new ponds and improvements to existing ponds and pipes.

The largest single proposed investment will go to the 31-year-old Roberto R. Bustamante Wastewater Treatment Plant, which requires an urgent capacity increase because of growth on the city’s East Side. The plant currently treats 39 million gallons a day but must expand to 51 million gallons a day. The estimated costs over five years will total $730 million.

EPWater also urges conservation as a means for customers to reduce the impact of rate and fee increases. EPWater is also proposing the following for the PSB to consider:

  • The Water Supply Replacement Charge will be waived for customers using less than 4 CCFs monthly. An estimated 48,000 low-water users may be eligible for a waiver of $14 a month.
  • An increased water volume from 4 CCFs (2,990 gallons) to 5 CCFs (3,740 gallons) included in the monthly minimum charge: An estimated 18,000 customers may save $6 a month.
  • Shifting infrastructure costs in outlying areas to those who benefit: The Sustainable Infrastructure Surcharge is a fixed monthly fee determined by meter size that will apply only to new metered homes and businesses. The surcharge does not apply to existing customers.

Board members asked EPWater staff to provide them with two SIS alternatives to consider – one option is a flat fee that would apply to all meter sizes and the other a percentage proposal. The PSB will review those options at the Dec. 14 meeting.

The board will vote on the FY2023-24 budget, including rates and fees, during the Jan. 11, 2023, meeting. If approved, the budget, rates and fees will go into effect at the start of the fiscal year, beginning March 1, 2023.

Members of the public who wish to comment on the proposed budget and rates are invited to attend the Dec. 14 or Jan. 11 PSB meetings. Also, comments may be emailed to [email protected] through Jan. 10. Written comments will be summarized at the Jan. 11 meeting, when the PSB will make a final determination on the budget and rates.