This week on Wonderful Water, join 97.9 The Hill’s Aaron Keck for a conversation with Stephen Winters, director of finance and customer service at OWASA, concerning OWASA’s financial planning in 2020.
As OWASA prepares its annual budget to account for ensuring water service to its customers and the investment required to maintain roughly 700 miles of pipeline across the next fiscal year, the organization is preparing for its annual public hearing on budgets and rates — while making adjustments to existing frameworks to account for the impact of COVID-19 on the community it serves.
“We spend about $50 million a year running the utility, and one of the things I always remind people of — if they don’t know — is that the only money OWASA receives, the only revenue OWASA receives, is from customers using our services,” said Winters. “We’re not able to levy taxes and we don’t get tax support from the local municipalities. So, you know, when revenue goes down or expenses go up, it’s directly reflected in the rates that customers pay.”
OWASA’s board of directors is holding a public hearing on Thursday, May 28, at 7 p.m. — specifically on the budget and rates. A five percent rate increase had been projected for the upcoming year, but the COVID-19 pandemic prompted a reevaluation of the proposal that did not include a rate increase.
“All of our board meetings are being held on a virtual basis right now due to the pandemic,” said Winters. “But anyone can register to speak during the board meeting. They just have to email our board clerk ahead of time and she’ll help with the arrangements there … written comments can also be submitted via email or regular mail.”
According to Winters, the budget this year accounts for over $20 million in “capital projects” that will be “essentially put back into the system to improve its resiliency and reliability” — an expense that is accounted for since, according to Winters, roughly half of every dollar OWASA customers pay goes back to maintaining infrastructure.
You can listen below for the full conversation between Aaron Keck and Stephen Winters below, and visit the Wonderful Water page here for more interviews with — and stories from — the people who keep our community growing and our water flowing.
Chapel Hill and Carrboro residents use roughly 7 million gallons of water a day, and “Wonderful Water” is a monthly conversation sponsored by the Orange Water and Sewer Authority highlighting its work to keep our community growing and water flowing.