MDC Adopts $167.1 Million Budget, Raises Water Rates

Metropolitan District customers can expect to see higher water bills next year following Monday night’s MDC vote to approve a $167.1 million budget for the 2018 calendar year. The budget is about a $15 million, or 10 percent, increase over the current budget.

Commissioners also set water rates for treated and untreated water — an increase from $2.77 per 100 cubic feet of water to $3.14 for treated water and an increase from $1 per 100 cubic feet of water to $1.50 for untreated water. Officials Monday night said member towns would see a roughly $9 increase in their monthly bills or a $107 increase a year, and nonmember towns would see an increase of about $3.50 a month or a $41 increase a year.

The MDC services Bloomfield, East Hartford, Hartford, Newington, Rocky Hill, West Hartford, Wethersfield and Windsor as member towns and provides drinking water to some residents in Farmington, Glastonbury, East Granby and South Windsor as nonmember towns. Sewer payments to MDC are paid for through ad valorem — or property taxes.

Commissioners Monday night said the main drivers for the budget increase included roughly $8 million in debt, $2.5 million for payroll and an anticipated $2.5 million contested payment from the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection for the Hartford landfill discharge into the sewer.

MDC officials said Monday night that DEEP owes the MDC approximately $3 million in water treatment for ammonia runoff since 2016, and has contested owing payment for that runoff. MDC officials anticipate DEEP will again contest that payment during the 2018 year. MDC officials said the DEEP payment wasn’t factored into the budget.

Commissioners did amend the budget so that if DEEP pays the $2.5 million by July, it would change the member town’s ad valorem sewer bills.

Prior to the meeting, residents and town officials spoke on the proposed budget and water rates.

West Hartford resident Judy Allen said she supported the increase because she said drinking water “is something we take for granted and has been underpriced for a long time.” With that caveat, Allen said she wants the MDC to use the revenue in a “responsible and transparent way” and made recommendations to the commission to price water for consumers in different rate structures and that a low-income assistance program be established.

State Rep. Gary Byron, R-Newington, again told MDC officials that he opposed the rate increases as it would be the second year MDC customers would see a water increase — “I’m strongly opposed to this rate increase, it’s too much, too soon.” He said he would meet with other local legislators to address the issue over money that DEEP owes the MDC.

West Hartford Director of Financial Services Peter Privitera said the proposed rate increase means a 10.5 percent hike, or over $1 million increase, for West Hartford residents, and that an annual increase is not sustainable.

Wethersfield Town Manager Jeff Bridges agreed saying the increases were “unsustainable.”

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