Massachusetts Water Resources Authority


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June 9, 2000

MWRA Board of Directors to Approve FY01 Assessments to Communities

The MWRA Board of Directors is expected to approve next Wednesday a fiscal year 2001 combined total water and sewer assessment increase of 3.5% to its member communities. For the average household in the 21 communities that receive both MWRA water and sewer services, this increase translates into an approximate combined annual water and sewer bill increase for MWRA costs of $11 from FY00. Communities that receive only sewer service from MWRA will see assessment increases averaging less than 1%. The assessment for water services, however, will increase by 13.5%, reflecting MWRA’s ongoing capital spending for water system improvements in the treatment, transmission, and storage of drinking water.

The approved assessments follow an extensive four-month review of next year's budget by the MWRA Advisory Board and the Board of Directors. During this review, the $502 million budget proposed in February 2000, was cut by $4.4 million to bring the final MWRA FY01 operating budget to $497.6 million. Fifty-five percent of that amount is earmarked for interest and principal payments on the short and long-term bonds that MWRA must issue to finance the construction of new facilities and necessary repairs and improvements to the regional water and sewer infrastructure.

"While we realize that no increase in a household's water and sewer bill is welcomed," said MWRA Executive Director Douglas B. MacDonald, "we are pleased to be able to keep the combined increase to just 3.5% while major water system projects we're building have hit full construction, including the 17.6 mile MetroWest Water Supply Tunnel and the Walnut Hill Water Treatment plant."

The most significant change for the final budget is a reduction of $3.3 million in direct expenses (nearly $700,000 more than the Advisory Board’s recommendation). Most of the reduction is the result of efficiencies and savings opportunities identified in an aggressive review of MWRA operations. The final budget reflects, for example, initial savings from new steps to consolidate water and sewer operational divisions at MWRA which have historically been run separately. The appointment of a Chief Operating Officer to continue these consolidation initiatives should yield additional savings in the future. "MWRA can and will improve service to its member communities and customers while streamlining operations" said Mr. MacDonald.

Although MWRA's wholesale water and sewer assessments have increased 3.5%, MWRA's FY01 assessments to individual communities will vary considerably depending on local water and sewer use. Water assessments to specific communities are based on each community's share of water use in calendar year 1999. Sewer assessments are based on a community's shares of average CY98 and CY99 wastewater flow, high strength user volume and loading contributions, and census and sewered population.

Besides major MWRA water system projects, the Board of Directors has approved the expansion of MWRA efforts to help communities finance needed rehabilitation of local water and sewer systems. A new $25 million a year no-interest loan program has been established for communities to replace or reline old unlined water pipeline. Mr. MacDonald said "Improvements to local water systems are a cornerstone of MWRA’s long-term Integrated Water Supply Improvement Program designed to assure high-quality drinking water at the customer’s tap."

The 21 core communities receiving both full water and sewer services will see total assessments increase 3.7%. About 70 percent of MWRA’s end-customers live in these core communities, the largest of which are Boston, Newton, Quincy, Somerville, and Waltham. In 16 communities receiving only sewer service from MWRA (for example Cambridge, Weymouth and Braintree), the increases will average only 0.6%. Increases in six communities receiving only full water service average 16.8%. Water communities that experienced high summer-time demands in 1999 due to hot and dry conditions causing larger volumes of outdoor water use will receive higher assessments relative to other communities.

Each MWRA community sets its own water and sewer rates for residential and business customers. Rates vary considerably among communities due a variety of local factors. The average household in the core communities uses approximately 63,000 gallons per year. Core community households consuming this volume would see an average annual bill of about $500. For a larger single-family home using 90,000 gallons per year in one of the 21 communities receiving both MWRA water and sewer services, it is estimated that the average annual water/sewer bill in FY01 will be about $710, an increase of $29 from FY00 that includes an estimate for community-related increases.

A gallon of drinking water from the tap in the MWRA service area now averages about eight/tenths of a cent. A toilet costs from 1.2 to 3 cents to flush depending on toilet size.

The Cellucci/Swift administration, along with the Massachusetts Legislature and Congressional Delegation, have all played a major role in reducing rate increases by securing federal grants for the Boston Harbor Project and instituting the Commonwealth's Debt Service Assistance Program. That program is expected to provide $49.4 million in assistance to MWRA rate payers in FY01.