MWRA water and sewer bills have been a challenge for local communities since the MWRA’s creation in 1985 as a result of the federal court-mandated cleanup of Boston Harbor. Below is a chart showing the percentage of budget allocation to each of the following items in the water and sewer operating budget for FY16. As you can see, over 60% of a residential bill goes directly to the MWRA for their assessments to the City of Melrose as mandated by law.
The total FY16 water and sewer operating budget is $14,741,979 and is broken out into the following categories as shown in this pie chart:
- MWRA Annual Assessment: Direct charge to the City of Melrose as mandated by law
- Reserves and Abatements: Reserves as defined by the Board of Aldermen and abatement allotment for billing adjustments
- Salaries of employees and staff
- Indirect Costs: Health insurance, life insurance, Social Security tax, pension, city insurance, departmental administrative costs
- Capital Projects: Water and sewer projects (see related map below)
- Maintenance and Repairs: Materials and vendors used for maintenance and repairs of the water and sewer system
I also think it is important to show the major improvements citywide that have been directly funded through water and sewer rates, benefitting every corner of the City since 2003. This includes replacement and repair of many residential water mains and systems, inflow/infiltration repairs and inspections to eliminate ground water in our sewer system, and major pump station improvements to eliminate surcharges in our sewer corridors.
In FY14 the Board of Aldermen, with the guidance of an independent consultant and a newly created Water and Sewer Commission, implemented a tiered system to help promote water conservation as well as control the rate of increase of rates. Below is a current breakdown of each tier. It should be noted that over 96% of residents fall into Tier 1 or Tier 2. The Water and Sewer Committee meets throughout the year, in meetings open to the public, to discuss issues relative to water and sewer that may arise.
Tier 1: 1–2,000 Cubic Feet
Tier 2: 2,001-10,000 Cubic Feet
Tier 3: Over 10,000 Cubic Feet
WHERE DO WE STAND?
Water and sewer rates are much different than a property tax rate for several reasons. For one, you can help control your water bill by conserving when possible. Also, infrastructure needs and conditions vary from community to community. Melrose was a city that did very little in terms of maintaining and improving its water and sewer infrastructure until ten years ago.
If you look at the charts below, Melrose is slightly above the average when it comes to water and sewer bills of full MWRA communities (water and sewer). Melrose ranks 9th of 23 communities when applying average Melrose consumption to bills of other MWRA communities. Melrose ranks 10th out of 23 in accordance with MWRA’s comparison looking at cost of actual consumption per consumer. The information provided below comes directly from the MWRA Advisory Boards Water and Sewer Survey for Calendar 2014.
It is also important to note that many of the communities you see ranking below Melrose in terms of cost have a much larger industrial base. Because we don’t have many commercial accounts, a larger percentage of the burden to fund our water and sewer system falls on residents.