Framingham mayor accepts recommendation to hike water and sewer rates by 16% June 11, 2022
Lillian Eden 617-459-6409 Metrowest Daily News
FRAMINGHAM - Water and sewer rates will go up by 16% in the city for the next fiscal year, with officials optimistic the city's enterprise fund will then be balanced.

"I have decided to accept the (water and sewer system consultant's) recommendation and raise the water and sewer rates," said Mayor Charlie Sisitsky during a public hearing Thursday night in the Blumer Room at the Memorial Building.

The rate goes into effect on July 1, the start of fiscal 2023.

Several residents spoke out in opposition to the rate hike during the hearing, but for the city, the change is needed "in order to get the enterprise fund in balance," Sisitsky said.

The fund has been operating at a deficit for the last two years, leaving reserves depleted.

Water and sewer rates were increased by 9% for the current fiscal year.

"Last year and the year prior, federal funds from ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) were used to balance the budget - those funds are no longer available," said Chief Financial Officer Louise Miller. "We should be creating balanced budgets for the enterprise fund."

Revenue continues to trend lower than anticipated, she said - the 16% increase will balance the budget.

ARPA funds had been used previously because there was evidence that lower revenues were due to the pandemic, Miller said.

Geoffrey Epstein, a former School Committee member and former chair of the Finance and Operations Subcommittee, asked whether the difficulty is more of a water and sewer problem than an enterprise fund problem.

To that end, Miller said, the city will be doing a "deep dive" into the operations of the enterprise fund and water meter billing. More information will be coming in the next few months, she said. The city will also explore using money from ARPA to defray costs on sewer and water infrastructure projects. Tier-based system to stay (for now)

The 16% rate increase, according to water and sewer system consultant Doug Gardner, will help "right the ship." The tier rate may change in coming years, he added, but will remain the same for now.

The tier-based billing system is based on water use, no matter if the water and sewer use is for a business, a nonprofit, a warehouse or a home. A business building, for example, could pay the Tier 1 rate - typical for a single-family home - if the building only used 1 to 12 water units per quarter.

Each unit of water represents 750 gallons.

A 60-inch American Standard brand bathtub from Home Depot holds about 42 gallons of water, so a single water unit in Framingham would fill that tub almost 18 times.

For Tier 1 users - those using 12 or fewer water units per quarter, which is most single family homeowners - filling the tub to the brim would cost about 90 cents. After the 16% increase starting in July, filling the 45-gallon tub to the brim would cost about $1.04.

"I do not believe that we will need another rate increase after we balance the budget because we are going to be working on these other issues," Miller said. "We are going to be working on these other issues - issues related to water meters, issues related to billing and efficiencies within the department."

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