If you’re looking for a way to help others this holiday season, consider donating to the Hillsborough Water Assistance Program.
“Every family has financial problems from time to time or neighbors having problems,” said Dan Barker, chairman of the Hillsborough Water and Sewer Advisory Committee, which makes recommendations to the town regarding the management of its water and sewer fund. “The Water Assistance Program is a way to help our neighbors and our community through temporary tough times. It doesn't just help people in need; it helps keep our community fabric together.”
The program helps eligible Hillsborough customers with paying their water and sewer bills and is funded through donations. Utility customers can contribute through:
- One-time donations to the fund.
- Monthly pledges of up to $20 that can be added to water and sewer bills.
No overhead deductions or program administration fees come from the donations. “Every dollar contributed is passed on to those in need,” Barker said.
Last year, the program assisted 70 households with an average of about $102 per household. Donations are up from this time last year, with contributions totaling nearly the amount that was donated last year — about $3,741 in 2018. In 2017, nearly $4,681 was received.
The Water Assistance Program is administered through a partnership with the local nonprofit organization Orange Congregations in Mission. It was started in March 2006 with $5,000 of seed money from the town. Eligible candidates are recommended by the Orange County Department of Social Services or a local church.
“We all know how everyone’s water bills can be a challenge,” said Saru Salvi, a member of the Water and Sewer Advisory Committee. “Imagine having financial difficulties and trying to pay the monthly water bill. Your donation could help someone going through a financial crisis.”
Each month, more than 100 town water and sewer accounts are overdue. Although most bills are 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 and its advisory board are examining rate structures that could provide a more equitable way to charge customers.