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March 14, 2003

MWRA Proposes FY04 Water and Sewer Assessments to Communities

On March 12, 2003, the MWRA Board of Directors approved preliminary community water and sewer assessments for Fiscal Year 2004 based on a proposed $513.5 million current expense budget. Annual water and sewer assessment increases to MWRA service area communities will average 3.9 percent. The assessment increases translate roughly into $20 household increases in the 21 core communities receiving both MWRA water and sewer service.

The proposed budget was transmitted to the MWRA Advisory Board for their 60 day review and comment.

Approximately 60 percent of the current expense budget will go toward debt service payments on bonds issued to finance ongoing water and sewer service improvement projects, including the construction of the 17.6 mile MetroWest Water Supply Tunnel and the Walnut Hill Water Treatment Plant. The MWRA has made significant progress in constructing the $1.7 billion Integrated Water Supply Improvement Program that will ensure compliance with new drinking water quality standards, improve system reliability and security, and help local communities rehabilitate their network of aging water pipelines. MWRA is also working on projects to reduced combined sewer overflows into Boston Harbor and area rivers under a federal court order.

The proposed budget includes $205.3 for operating costs, a lower budget than any years during the 1999-2002 period. Through attrition, early retirement and layoffs, MWRA staffing has been reduced by several hundred employees in the past few years. MWRA has also reduced operating costs through facility automation, re-bidding of utility and sludge processing contracts, and optimizing operations and maintenance at the Deer Island Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Each February or March, MWRA distributes preliminary estimates of community assessments for water and sewer services for the upcoming fiscal year based on best available information about anticipated MWRA expenditures and revenues. 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 21 core communities uses approximately 63,000 gallons per year. Core community households consuming this volume would see an average annual bill of about $548. Larger households using 90,000 gallons per year would see an average annual bill of about $809.

The combined 3.9% increase includes an average sewer assessment increase of 2.6% and an average water assessment increase of 7.3%.

As always, preliminary assessments for individual communities may be higher or lower than the average sewer and water assessments. Water assessments to specific communities are based on each community's share of water use in calendar year 2002. Sewer assessments are based on a community's shares of average CY00, CY01, and CY02 wastewater flow, census and sewered population, and high strength industrial user volume and loading contributions.

Final assessments for FY04 will be determined with approval of MWRA's FY04 CEB by the Board in June. The final budget will incorporate changes resulting from the Advisory Board's recommendations and the Board's budget deliberations.

A gallon of drinking water from the tap in the MWRA service area now averages about nine/tenths of a cent. Flushing a toilet will cost from 1.4 to 4 cents depending on toilet size.