Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Austin Water Recognized for Excellence in Government Finance

Nearly $700 million saved through innovative debt management strategies

The Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) recognized Austin Water in this year’s Awards for Excellence in Government Finance, specifically for its debt management strategies. Austin Water’s creative approach successfully balances two essential priorities: increasing affordability for customers, while improving and maintaining critical infrastructure for extreme weather and a growing population. The utility’s debt management methods have saved customers nearly $700 million since 2016.

These savings have been returned to customers. Austin Water has not raised its rates since 2018. Since April of 2020, Austin Water was able to provide $6.8 million in bill relief and $10 million in payment assistance funding for customers in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year, the utility provided $6.5 million emergency reductions after Winter Storm Uri.

“Striking a careful balance between investments in infrastructure while ensuring rates remain affordable is a common challenge for public utilities. Adding pressures such as the ongoing pandemic, spiraling costs of living, and effects of climate change, and the complexity of this challenge soars,” said Joseph Gonzales, Assistant Director of Financial Services at Austin Water. “Austin Water has been able to navigate these issues, making major investments to Austin’s water and wastewater system while not raising rates and even providing rate reductions to help customers during difficult times. We are deeply honored to be recognized for our work in this area.”

Recently, Austin Water secured more than $71.1 million in state loans with an interest rate starting as low as 0.20%. The low-interest loans save more than $13.3 million in financing cost as the utility continues to improve resiliency in its water, wastewater and metering infrastructure. At the same time, Austin Water received recognition for saving customers more than $68 million in future debt service costs after receiving strong investor demand and competitive pricing for the refinancing of $173 million in outstanding debt.

A newly published case study from the GFOA provides a detailed analysis of Austin Water’s innovative approach: 

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