Water/Sewer Rates Going Up Nearly 5 Percent in Fiscal 2017

Photo: Water and sewage bills are going up.

Residential and commercial rate payers will see their combined water and sewer bill increase by nearly five percent in the coming fiscal year, as the as the Belmont Board of Selectmen approved the recommendations from the Belmont Department of Public Works for a rate increase on Monday, March 28.

The average Belmont homeowner who uses 3,000 cubic feet of water will see their quarterly bill jump by $19 – from the current $400 to $419 – pushing $1,700 for fiscal 2017 that begins July 1, 2016, according to Jay Marcotte, Belmont’s DPW director.

Those households and businesses the DPW dubbed as “heavy users” will see their bill increase by $38 per quarter.

The fiscal 2017 increase of 4.7 percent is nearly double last year’s 2.6 percent 

Marcotte said “the largest chunk” of Belmont’s rate increases is from the annual assessment from the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority, which supplies the town with water and takes its sewage. And a significant percentage of the MWRA pricing – 57.7 percent in fiscal 2017 – is influenced by “the large amount of debt it holds.” 

And it is those large increases in scheduled debt payments is causing Belmont’s assessment to spike higher this coming fiscal year. 

The rate increases come as Belmont residents have steadily reduced their consumption of water usage over the past two decades. From a high of 1.05 billion gallons consumed in 1995, households and businesses have decreased their water usage to 767 million gallons in 2015.

But while households’ have become more efficient and consumption trends point downward, rates will need to increase to maintain and serve the public, said Marcotte as fixed costs of capital projects and operation costs continued to rise. 

A part of consumer’s bills is also directed towards Belmont’s largest capital reinvestment program – which began in 1995 – of replacing every water main installed before 1928 (which are unlined cast iron pipes) or about 38 miles. As of today, 25.6 miles – or 66 percent – of the work is complete. 

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