By Charlie Breitrose/Daily News staff
The MetroWest Daily News
Posted May 11, 2010 @ 09:40 AM
NATICK — Town administration last night recommended keeping water rates next year at nearly the same level as this year, but selectmen will not decide until May 24 at the earliest.
The town has a tiered water rate system, with those using the lowest amount paying the least amount, those using the most paying more for their water.
Natick must cover a small increase in expenses, which would require a rate hike of nearly 1 percent, said Deputy Town Administrator Michael Walters Young.
Other options Walters Young presented included bringing the tiers closer together or adding more to the rates to build up the reserves in the Water and Sewer Enterprise Fund.
Leveling the tiers would mean the lowest users would see an increase of up to 10 percent, and middle tiers would go up 3 to 5 percent, while the highest tier would see no increase.
Town officials also looked at increasing the rate by 4.5 percent to build up reserves, Walters Young said, which would then be used for maintaining the water/sewer system and to avoid a large price hike.
Ultimately, he said, they recommended the small increase because of the recession.
"While there is significant merit to building a reserve of 9 percent to 10 percent of the operational budget, we are keenly aware of the economy has not been good," Walters Young said.
Selectmen Chairman Josh Ostroff suggested to his colleagues that they at least consider leveling the tiers this year. "If we address the (leveling of) rates and tiers, it would be nice to do it this year rather than next year if we are facing rate increases," Ostroff said.
The possibility of rates jumping in the next few years, and by how much, is uncertain, Walters Young said. Some of the driving factors are maintenance and capital projects, the assessment charged by the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority, and the extra cost the MWRA will pass to the town to pay for repairing the recent break of the MWRA's main water pipe.
"One big wild card is the Weston catastrophe," Walters Young said.
Natick, he said, uses the MWRA sewer system but does not get water from the agency.
"Communities like Natick will argue that sewer-only communities should not have to pay any part of the repairs," Walters Young said.
Selectmen will continue the public hearing on the water and sewer rates at their next meeting on May 24.
(Charlie Breitrose can be reached at 508-626-3964 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)