Consider Helping Neighbors with Water Bills

Thursday, Nov. 29, 2018
Consider Helping Neighbors with Water Bills

If you’re looking for a way to help others this holiday season, consider donating to the Hillsborough Water Assistance Program.

“Hillsborough is a magical town. However, we all know how challenging the Town of Hillsborough’s water bill can be,” said Saru Salvi, a member of the Hillsborough Water and Sewer Advisory Committee, which makes recommendations to the town regarding the management of its water and sewer fund. “As we move into 2019, let’s remember there are people who live here who may not be as fortunate as others. Even a small monthly donation can change someone’s life.”

The Water Assistance Program helps eligible Hillsborough customers with paying their water and sewer bills and is funded through donations from utility customers. One-time donations can be made to the fund, or monthly pledges of up to $5 can be added to water and sewer bills.

“The program is a very efficient way to help our fellow residents,” said Dan Barker, chairman of the Water and Sewer Advisory Committee. “Every dollar contributed is passed on to those in need. There are no ‘overhead’ deductions or program administration fees that come from the amounts donated by contributors.”

Eligible candidates are recommended by the Orange County Department of Social Services or a local church, and the program is administered through a partnership with the local nonprofit organization Orange Congregations in Mission.

“The partnership assures that we are serving those in need with genuine challenges to their ability to pay bills and keep their family safe and secure,” Barker said.

Last year, the program assisted 58 households with an average of about $70 per household. Donations are down this year, with less than 50 percent of last year’s total donations received by September. The community donated nearly $4,681 in 2017.

Each month, more than 100 town water and sewer accounts are overdue.

“As the economy expands, contracts and shifts, there are many people who have a temporary need for assistance,” Barker said. “By design, the Water Assistance Program monies cannot be used for long-term assistance. It is designed to help people with an immediate problem in meeting their bills.”

Although most Hillsborough water and sewer bills do get paid eventually, customers sometimes incur late fees and service disruptions.

“People unable to pay their water bill sometimes end up without water for several months due to added fees from the utility performing the disconnection and reconnection,” Barker said. “The Water Assistance Program helps users avoid that initial disconnection and keep their limited money available for their family.”

Hillsborough water and sewer rates are set to cover the costs of providing the utility service, which includes the operation, maintenance and improvements of the water and sewer system. State law prevents the town from charging different rates to customers based on income.

The town is planning to explore rate structures that could provide a more equitable way to charge customers.

“For those concerned about the affordability of living in this area, especially for people on fixed incomes or facing family emergencies, our Water Assistance Program is a good way to help,” Hillsborough Mayor Tom Stevens said. “It’s especially easy to contribute to the program if you are set up for automatic payments by adding a small contribution to each monthly water and sewer bill. That’s what I do.”

Information on making donations as well as an online form are available on the Water Assistance Program page of the town’s website.

The Water Assistance Program was started in March 2006 with $5,000 of seed money from the town.