Financial & Customer Affordability Program Study

Financial & Customer Affordability Program Study


The Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans is undertaking a comprehensive financial study to determine the current cost of providing water and sewer service to all of its customers and the revenue necessary to improve that level of service by funding capital projects that will positively impact customers’ quality of life. SWBNO will host a series of community meetings before the end of the year to receive customer input on what improvements and projects will provide the greatest value to residents. After thoughtful dialogue with the community and consideration of feedback, SWBNO may propose a specific rate adjustment designed to fund the improvements supported by its customers.

What action did the Board take at its October 2022 board meeting?

The Board authorized SWBNO to begin the official water and sewer rate adjustment process by: (1) hosting a series of community hearings to generate customer input on priorities for improving service and the funding necessary to deliver those priorities; and (2) notifying the City Council and Board of Liquidation of its intent to develop and seek approval of a rate adjustment in the coming months.

Will SWBNO’s Board of Directors take additional action?

Following a period of public input, SWBNO may propose a specific rate adjustment for Board consideration in January. If the Board approves a proposal, it will then go to the Board of Liquidation and City Council for consideration.

Is there a proposed percentage increase?

Not yet. While SWBNO has analyzed several scenarios based on need and cost of service, any proposed increase will be based on those elements PLUS public input and feedback.

Should rates be adjusted, what can ratepayers expect to receive?

Rate adjustments between 3% and 6% could provide between $160M and $290M for capital projects that could be implemented over the next five years to improve water and sewer service for SWBNO customers. These meetings will be an opportunity for customers to help prioritize which improvements are most important to them. Examples of such projects may include water system treatment plant improvements, increased water main replacements, smart metering, and sewer system repair and replacement.

Aren’t there other funding sources available for utilities now?

There are, and SWBNO will continue to diligently seek those Federal and State resources. They are, however, smaller, single-project revenue sources that do not provide the stable, long-term financing necessary for systemwide improvements. Many of these sources also require a percentage of local cost share and will necessitate system funds to cover this share.

What has the rate study accomplished so far?

The study has provided the baseline cost of service for customers, analysis of operating and capital needs for water and sewer systems, affordability considerations, and rate adjustment scenarios. It provides context for sharing with customers how much it may cost to deliver various levels of service improvement.

What is SWBNO’s overall objective?

SWBNO’s goal is a balanced, well-supported financial plan focusing on stability and resiliency. One of the focus areas of our Strategic Plan is to practice strong fiscal stewardship while balancing affordability with investments necessary to deliver critical services.

What will the public engagement process entail?

After hearing feedback from our Board, the public and our stakeholders, the public meetings designed to elicit feedback from customers on project priorities and willingness to fund improved service  will occur in the first quarter of 2023 after Carnival Season. If a specific rate proposal is put forward, a second phase and will include a variety of community outreach opportunities citywide designed to share with customers the proposed rate adjustment and plan implementation (if approved).

What should we expect at the public meetings?

There will be roundtable discussions focusing on potential future improvements to the water and sewer systems and their respective costs, as well as opportunities to provide written feedback. Additionally, easy-to-understand rate scenario information and infographics will be available for review, along with updates on ongoing initiatives – such as Smart Meter implementation and construction of the West Power Complex. Customers will also have the opportunity to speak directly with customer service representatives and other key staff about their accounts and receive updates on key projects.

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