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Water Rates Jumping 2%, Sewer by 6%

Growing MWRA assessments could cause town to review projects to keep down price hikes.

Water Rates Jumping 2%, Sewer by 6%

The good news: Belmont's water and sewer rates are "only" going up two and six percent, respectively.

The bad news: It could be getting much worse in the next decade.

After providing the Board of Selectmen his rate recommendations – last year the rates increased overall by 4.6 percent – for the coming fiscal year at its Monday night meeting, May 7, Peter Castanino, director of Belmont's Department of Public Works, told the board, the Water and Sewer divisions will soon review existing and future infrastructure projects in an attempt to soften the blow of expected future assessment hikes from the public authority supplying Belmont with water and sewer services. 

Belmont 

Water/Sewer

combined bill

2013

 Proposed 

2012

2011

Average residential

(5/8" Meter, 20 HCF per quarter)

$356

 

$340.43 $325.39

Large residential including irrigation

(5/8" Meter, 40 HCF per quarter)

$786 $754.53 $722.64

HCF=Hundred cubic feet; 

Each HCF equals 748.05 gallons

Source: Belmont DPW

The Massachusetts Water Resources Authority provides some combination of wholesale drinking water and sewage services to more than 60 municipalities in eastern Massachusetts. And it doesn't come cheap.

In the coming year, the largest expense in Belmont's water and sewer budgets is the MWRA assessments; 43 percent for water and 58 percent in sewers.  And the largest portion of that assessment is due to debt payments.

Created in 1985, the authority raised $6.8 billion in bond sales to upgrade water and sewer systems after nearly half a century of neglect and underfunding.

Castanino said the MWRA's debt servicing will reach a peak in this decade with assessments to municipalities rising to meet the authority's financial obligations. 

"As we go forward, in fiscal (20)15, (20)17, (20)19, the (MWRA assessment) increase will be well over eight percent a year which will be a real challenge to manage the rates," said Castanino, saying that municipalities should not expect fiscal relief from state government.

Castanino said the town will be seeking to deaden the anticipated increases by planning for the future. 

"We want to provide the board some options and choices so we go forward in a thoughtful way," he noted. 

He said that the town made a commitment in 2010 to keep rate hikes below five percent a year. If the town wants to keep the increases lower, there will be a "trade-off" on what projects the Water and Sewer divisions should move forward on. 

In 1995, the Water Division began to replace all water mains – about 38 miles out of a total of 91 miles of pipe – installed prior to 1928. Today, the department has completed slightly more than half of that project. The sewer's capital budget plans include replacing two existing pump stations and replacing and lining sewers and drains.

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