The Mayor is currently considering a 2% increase in water and sewer rates in Framingham.
I have recently expressed my comments to Mayor Spicer in written testimony pertaining to the new rate structure. Below are the thoughts I expressed:
At this time the Mayor is in the same situation setting water and sewer rates, as the City Council will be in later this month regarding the tax rate.
There are few rate alternatives, as the revenue must support the budget.
The only time we can truly impact rates is when we develop and approve the spending plans, both operations and capital.
Often it is pointed out that Framingham has spent a great deal of money on capital infrastructure. Sometimes when this has been discussed it has been made to sound like it just started, but it is really a decade and a half old. That distinction is important because though perhaps in the past the system maintenance has been
neglected, that is the somewhat distant past at this point.
I have great respect for the goals that Director Peter Sellers and his staff have accomplished. They have brought us a long way and done some very impressive
projects, but we cannot continue to build at this pace or our rates will not be affordable. Instead, we must maintain the system and continue to gradually replace
it. We must recognize that we can’t address 100 years of issues in 20 years. If we do so, we will put a large cost on one generation of rate payers.
If we are to have any real rate relief, we are going to have to slow our capital program as that is what is driving the rate increase. Although the current rate
proposal is a relatively modest rate increase of 2%, it is not reflective of the real increase in cost. The rate increase is being mitigated by retained earnings, but once
that source of funds is used, the rates will grow even faster. We will have to make up for the one-time revenue being utilized now, and account for future cost increases.
The ideas expressed that water and sewer costs are a bargain compared to cable TV and other utilities may be true. I have also seen examples of how our rates compare favorably to other MWRA communities. Nevertheless, I do not believe it tells the whole story. People can’t decide to do without water. I cannot immediately name any other life necessity, even health insurance in most instances, that has doubled in a decade. We have to recognize the impact this has on many many residents and commit to slow this rapid rise.
Controlling the growth of expenditure is what controls the rates, and honestly that starts with the Mayor’s office.
As the executive we Mayor Spicer’s leadership to control expenditures as she is the budget maker. If the Mayor takes the initiative, I pledge as a councilor to support her efforts.
I am truly hopeful when we the capital budget in a couple of weeks, and the operating budget in six months, we will see the beginning of water and sewer rate control. It is a critical need for our community and our citizens.
George P. King