Customer Assistance Program Expanded and Capital Improvements Continue
On Wednesday, June 3, 2020, the Santa Margarita Water District Board of Directors unanimously approved a revised budget with $1.8 million in reductions, a new customer assistance program to help customers experiencing financial difficulties, and canceled the previously approved rate increase scheduled to be implemented January 2021.
Each year, the District develops an annual budget that allows us to provide safe and reliable drinking water, wastewater, and recycled water services to our nearly 200,000 residents. Recognizing that this year is different, the District made every effort to defer spending to the degree possible without impacting water quality or customer service.
“We recognize the gravity of the economic situation due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dr. Betty Olson, Board President. “This budget ensures safe and reliable services to our customers while responsibly deferring expenses during these uncertain times.”
The Board also approved a longer-term Customer Assistance Program to support customers during these difficult economic times. Customers may now contact the District and set up a program to defer their bills for three months. The program allows them to repay the deferral over 24 months. In April, the Board adopted a One-Month Deferral Program, which adds to the District’s current Payment Plan options and short-term Payment Extensions.
Amidst the pandemic, the District remains committed to maintaining critical infrastructure and ensuring water supply reliability for the region.
The Five Year Capital Replacement Program includes a well thought-out prioritization of equipment, pipelines, reservoirs, and systems in need of replacement. The interactive map shows the project locations, costs, and details.
Just prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the District reviewed its strategic plan and recommitted its focus to recycle nominally 100% of its wastewater, have 30% local water supply by 2030, and secure six months of drinking water storage by 2030. The development of local supplies is important to ensure that safe and reliable water is available in emergencies and that the District realizes the long-term cost savings when compared to the ongoing increase in imported water costs. Many of these efforts take decades of planning, foresight, and coordination, and District staff will continue to work toward these goals. Both the strategic plan and capital replacement programs are financed by the District and included in customer rates.