Natick water rates are rising 4% come mid-year, per an update this week by Bill Spratt, executive director of the DPW and Facilities. You can catch his Select Board presentation about 45 minutes into the Natick Pegasus recording.
This would be the lowest rate change since fiscal year ’18.
The new rates could add more than $30 a month to the quarterly water and sewer bill of a single-family residence come the period beginning July 1. On the bright side, you’re only paying about 1.9 cents per gallon.
Spratt says the town’s costs are increasing, and as a result of this and other considerations such as debt/income ratio, ratepayers need to pay more. Water consumption tiers have been rebalanced to make the math work based on a consultant-recommended model that takes past usage from “normal” years such as FY19 and FY 21 as well as future financial estimates into consideration. Sorting all this out hasn’t been easy, Spratt said, describing how complicated the town’s current system of tiering is.
Among the town’s cost challenges will be filtering out even more PFAS “forever chemicals,” which the state and now the feds are cracking down on with new regulations. “Regulations will change and we’ll have to come up to speed with those regulations,” Spratt said.
Natick has invested some $5.5M for PFAS filters and other support, but it needs more. Spratt said the town’s Tonka treatment plant has the capacity to produce 4 million gallons of water a day, but can only filter half that amount currently due to a lack of PFAS filters. The town would love to have that capacity totally available given that other treatment facilities, such as the one at Elm Bank, are dependent on Charles River water flow.
Spratt said “I think we need to look at this rate structure and rate proposal as a continuum. We can’t just set our rates and assume we can continue to set rates the same way every single year.”
Considerations to improve retained earnings in years to come include possibly charging more for customers with larger meters, increasing the base (minimum) rate, and getting a better handle on municipal use.
Spratt also took the opportunity to plug the WaterSmart app that customers can use to monitor their water usage and spot possible issues, such as toilet leaks, that can lead to big bills. The Select Board entertains a steady stream of water and sewer bill abatement hearings, some of which might have been headed off via WaterSmart usage.