Calaveras County Water District directors are divided over the value of the district's Wastewater Rate Assistance Program for low-income sewer customers.

The board in July authorized $10,000 as seed money to develop the program.

But so far, only six customers have received the rate cuts, and two CCWD directors are questioning the program's worth.

Reporting to the CCWD board Wednesday, Finance Director Julie McManus said only six of the 27 sewer customers who applied for the 10 percent reduction in sewer rates have qualified for the program.

The 2000 Census revealed that 13 percent of Calaveras County residents live at or below the federal poverty level.

CCWD has about 3,000 sewer customers. Of those, McManus estimates, based on census numbers, almost 400 customers could be at the qualifying income level, though many of them are renters, not homeowners, and therefore do not qualify.

McManus said there is no accurate count of who might qualify, but CCWD hopes to get a better sense of the number as more customers apply for the rate breaks.

The biggest stumbling block, she said, is the income eligibility requirement. She asked the board to raise the amount a person can earn and still qualify for the program.

An individual must earn $8,860 or less per year to qualify. A family of three must have an income of $15,020 or less to qualify.

McManus said if the board increased the income levels, more applicants would qualify for the program.

Directors agreed to raise the income eligibility to 130 percent of poverty: $11,518 a year for an individual, $15,522 for a family of two and $19,526 for a family of three.

The vote came after much discussion and was split 3-2, with Don Deem, who represents Angels Camp, and Charles Hebrard, who represents Mokelumne Hill, dissenting. They are the same two directors who are waning in their support of the program.

Leroy Fonceca, who represents West Point, has been an enthusiastic supporter of WRAP from the beginning. He urged Wednesday that the income eligibility be raised.