Metropolitan Sewerage District to consider budget, sewer-rate increase

At its meeting at on Wednesday, the Metropolitan Sewerage District will hold a public hearing on its proposed fiscal year 2012 budget. Totaling around $43.3 million, the budget calls for a 3 percent increase in the domestic sewer rate, raising the average household’s monthly bill from $25.72 to $26.45. MSD has increased sewer rates every year going back to fiscal year 2007. Rate increases over the past five fiscal years have averaged 3.75 percent.

As reason for this year’s rate hike, MSD cites a bond covenant that requires the district to set rates and charges high enough so that income available for debt service will be at least 120 percent of monies owed that fiscal year. MSD also notes the need to maintain a debt coverage ratio attractive to investors and rating agencies, as well the need to fund a state obligation requiring that the district rehabilitate 250,000 line feet of sewer lines over a five-year period.

Under the proposed budget, each MSD employee can expect a 1.5 percent cost-of-living raise as well as a $775 lump-sum payment. The district’s division directors requested the cost-of-living increase to keep pace with industry salary increases as well as to encourage retention of valued employees, according to the budget document. The $775 lump sum is being proposed to help offset a proposed 25 percent increase in employee health-care premiums and an additional $179,000 in potential out-of-pocket expenses through design changes in MSD’s employee health-care plan.

Other planned expenditures include an 8.4 percent increase in retirement costs and $318,000 in increased fuel and materials cost.

MSD also plans $18.5 million in construction projects during the fiscal year, most related to the district’s state-mandated program to rehabilitate its wastewater collection system, which is expected to extend the life of the sewer system as well as improve performance.

The estimated cost of the rehabilitation program is $148.6 million over the next 10 years. Major projects for the fiscal year include interceptors at Town Branch and Dingle Creek. (An interceptor is a large sewer line that controls the flow of sewage to a treatment plant. In a storm, they allow some sewage to flow directly into a receiving stream to keep it from overflowing onto streets. MSD says it has reduced overflows from 288 per year to about 23 per year over the last 11 years.) MSD also plans to spend around $900,000 in new lining for 10,400 feet of sewer lines.

Wednesday’s meeting is being held at 2 p.m. at MSD’s administration building on 2028 Riverside Drive.

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