Water Rates Frozen Again for Ratepayers

A string of good news related to water and sewer rates has continued this week with City Manager Jay Ash, Council President Leo Robinson and State Rep. Gene O’Flaherty (D-Chelsea) announcing that local water and sewer charges would not be increasing.

It has been more than 10 years since water and sewer charges have not increased.

“Council President Robinson and his colleagues have been really pressing to leave water and sewer rates at their FY’12 levels, and have worked with me to develop a financial strategy that allows us to now confirm that will be the case,” reported Ash. “We’ve reviewed our Five-Year Financial Forecast, CIP (Capital Improvement Plan), both the FY’12 and FY’13 Budgets and looked at the Water and Sewer Enterprise Fund statements and have determined, despite a 6 percent increase in our assessment from the MWRA, that we can absorb that increase without needing to raise rates.”

Said Robinson, “This break in increases has been a priority for my colleagues and me because we know where the economy is and how important every dollar we can avoid charging homeowners is in helping to keep Chelsea an affordable place to live. We can’t do this forever, as our costs for water and sewer charges and related infrastructure projects goes up every year. However, for this fiscal year, which started July 1, our City is saying that we’re freezing rates and giving ratepayers a break.”

Said O’Flaherty, “I’m thrilled that my actions and those of my colleagues, Representative (Kathi-Anne) Reinstein and Senator (Sal) DiDomenico, are helping our local officials save our homeowners money on what would surely have otherwise been a rate increase.”

O’Flaherty provided the last bit of information needed for the rate freeze when he informed Ash and Robinson about pending infrastructure funding that will be coming from the State to the City.

According to Ash, the 6 percent increase that had been anticipated would have resulted in an $87 increase in the average water and sewer bill.

“Two families will see twice that savings, three families will see three times that, and bigger users will see even greater, exponential relief,” said Ash.

Although it is too early to tell what other communities are doing about rate increases, Ash said about 30 percent of those receiving full MWRA services last year were able to freeze rates.

“And we’re certainly happy to be joining them,” interjected Robinson.  “And, by doing so, we should remain the most affordable place in the region to own a single family home again next year.”

Robinson’s comment refers to the annual survey Ash undertakes which looks at the average property tax and water and sewer bills for the typical single-family owner occupant in seven neighboring communities.  The most recent survey indicates that Chelsea’s bills are 29 percent lower than those communities.

“Our City Council is acting very responsibly when it comes to both spending priorities and oversight, our legislative delegation is delivering critical aid and we at City Hall are managing to find ways of balancing budgets while protecting and enhancing important services and avoiding any need for a Proposition 2 ½ override.  So, yes,” said Ash to a question, “I’d say our team is working very effectively here for local ratepayers.”

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