Advisory Board members can traditionally look forward to our annual Muniworks workshop to discuss the relevant issues facing MWRA rate payers as well as water and sewer utilities. This year, however, has been anything but traditional. The ongoing pandemic prevented our gathering from happening in-person but could not interrupt the important conversations related to PFAS from taking place. This year, we invite you to attend Muniworks from from a safe, socially-distant location by enjoying a series of interviews on the topic of PFAS with guests offering a variety of perspectives.
Critical votes by the full Advisory Board on May 4th and by the MWRA Board of Directors on May 6th will lower the payments due by communities to MWRA for FY20, FY21, and FY22. The full press release is available here.
Communities will be receiving a joint letter (see example here) from MWRA Executive Director Fred Laskey and MWRA Advisory Board Executive Director Joe Favaloro regarding the votes in the coming days. Here are the three components of the relief package:
- Loan Program: This measure applies to the three Community Financial Assistance Programs (Local Water Pipeline, Lead Service Removal, and Inflow/Infiltration Loans). Communities will now have the option to restructure their payments due for FY20, FY21, and/or FY22. The goal is to provide flexibility to communities and rate relief in the short term.
- Reductions to MWRA’s Proposed FY21 Current Expense Budget: A 1.0% increase in the rate revenue requirement was approved, down from the 3.63% increase proposed back in February. This 1.0% increase will help to mitigate the immediate economic stress due to the pandemic, but it still permits predictable and sustainable rates moving into the future. Final assessments for FY21 can be found here. In addition, communities can see how the lower rate revenue requirement along with the loan deferral option will impact their rates here.
- Debt Service Assistance: Earlier this week, the MWRA received a portion of the $1.2 million Commonwealth Sewer Relief Fund in the sum of $891,533. In the past, these funds would be used to offset the next fiscal year’s assessment increase (the “pay it forward” strategy); however, due to the impacts of the COVID-19 virus on our communities, the MWRA and MWRA Advisory Board decided to immediately utilize the DSA Funds to reduce FY20 assessments. DSA totals appropriated to communities can be found here. The Advisory Board wishes to thank Governor Baker, Speaker DeLeo, Majority Leader and MWRA Caucus Chairman Ron Mariano, Senate President Karen Spilka, and the entire MWRA Legislative Caucus for their continued support of MWRA ratepayers.
Please see a letter to all members from Joe Favaloro expressing his thanks here.
May 27 | Remote MWRA Board of Directors Meeting
June 12 | Remote Executive Committee Meeting
June 18 | Remote Advisory Board Meeting (with possible PFAS workshop)
On May 6th, the MWRA Board of Directors voted to approve the MWRA Advisory Board recommendations of a 1.0% rate revenue increase for FY21 and a loan deferral proposal to provide relief for communities for FY20, FY21, and FY22 applying to community loan programs.
The combined measures save communities $100 million to mitigate the financial circumstances related to the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, $891,535 from debt service assistance that came in from the Commonwealth on May 5th will be applied to community assessments for this year. You can read the full MWRA news release here.
The Advisory Board is grateful to MWRA staff and the MWRA Board of Directors for their hard work and cooperation during these unprecedented circumstances.
The Advisory Board has two critical meetings scheduled over the next week:
- On Thursday, April 30th at 10:00 am, the Executive Committee will meet to discuss joint recommendations by both the Advisory Board and Authority staffs to help mitigate the impact of MWRA charges to communities in FY21. Click here for the agenda.
- A week from today on Monday, May 4th at 10:00 am, the full Advisory Board will convene to discuss and vote on these recommendations on the FY21 CEB. Members will also hear about the deferral process for the Community Loans Program. Click here to access the draft agenda.
These meetings are critical and we hope that you will participate remotely. We have limited the agendas to budget-related matters only.
On Wednesday, May 6th at 3:00 pm, there will be an emergency meeting of the MWRA Board of Directors to discuss and vote on Advisory Board and Authority recommendations on the FY21 CEB. They will also discuss and vote on a package of recommendations that defers FY20, 21, and 22 community payments. These actions taken by both agencies will allow communities to know their FY21 assessments and total payments due to MWRA much earlier than normal. Most importantly if both our recommendations to the budget and the loan programs are adopted, communities’ impact from MWRA charges for FY21 will be significantly mitigated at a time when communities desperately need a break.
We hope to have you participate in our upcoming meetings. Please contact us with any questions. Thank you.
Good morning to all.
We hope that you are all staying safe. Advisory Board staff continues to work remotely. Below is an update on ongoing activities impacting our communities.
Advisory Board: Expediting the Budget Review Process
- Both staffs of the Advisory Board and MWRA continue to develop a plan to mitigate proposed increases to communities for FY21.
- We realize that this year, more than ever, communities need their MWRA assessments as early as possible in order to develop their budgets.
- With this in mind, the Advisory Board is accelerating our upcoming meeting schedule.
- The Executive Committee has been rescheduled to April 30th at 10:00 AM to discuss and vote on Advisory Board Package of Recommendations on the Community Loan Assistance Program, as well as the FY21 proposed CEB, which will assist MWRA communities. (Click here for agenda.)
- The Full Advisory Board will remotely meet on May 4th at 10:00 AM to discuss the package of recommendations brought forward by the Executive Committee. (Click here for legal notice.)
- MWRA is in the process of rescheduling their Board of Directors meeting for the first week of May.
Financial Impacts of COVID-19
- Raftelis on behalf of AWWA and AMWA developed a report that outlines the sobering impacts on water utilities. (Click here for the report.)
- Boston Business Journal outlines conditions as taxes evaporate. (Paywall; click here to access.)
- Mr. Laskey sent the update out to all employees last week. (Click here to access.)
Until we return to a more normal state, we will continue to use a weekly check-in to keep our members in the loop. Here are the key updates from the week of April 6 to April 10, 2020:
- Advisory Board Meeting for April 16 – Cancelled
- MWRA Board of Director Meeting for April 15 – Cancelled
- Meeting with EOEEA Secretary Theoharides regarding watershed staffing – Postponed
- MWRA Public Hearing on the Proposed FY21 CEB for April 30 – Access details to come soon
Advisory Board Updates
- The Executive Committee held their scheduled meeting on April 10. Seventeen members participated remotely. Also joining the meeting were Advisory Board staff and Fred Laskey, Ria Convery, Tom Durkin, Matt Horan, and Mike Cole of the MWRA.
- Advisory Board staff introduced a proposal to mitigate total MWRA charges to communities (loan repayments for the I/I and LWSAP programs) with benefits in FY20 and FY21. The Executive Committee voted unanimously to send the proposal to the MWRA Board of Directors. Advisory Board staff are working closely with MWRA staff to develop this approach; more details to follow.
- The Executive Committee also voted to waive restrictions on Quincy’s use of LWSAP for their the pipeline replacement program.
- Advisory Board staff continue to meet remotely with MWRA staff for budget briefings. Meetings to date include finance, administration, Deer Island, FOD, operations, and capital improvement projects in engineering and construction. The spring revisit to further discuss adjustments as well as the impact of COVID-19 on the proposed budget will be scheduled soon.
May Advisory Board Meeting
- It is our expectation to hold a remote Advisory Board meeting for May 21st. The lessons learned from our remote public hearing in March and the most recent remote Executive Committee meeting give us the confidence to hold a full meeting for all members in May.
- Agenda items will include:
- Presentation and vote on Advisory Board recommendations for the MWRA’s proposed FY21 budget, and
- Presentation and vote on the Advisory Board budget.
- Meeting packets along with details about accessing the remote meeting will be sent in May.
- Executive Director Fred Laskey sent a detailed email to staff last week with updates on masks, COVID-19 cases, a biobot study on wastewater, and community water use trends.
Please remember to follow all federal and state requirements regarding social distancing, and stay safe.
To all of our members: we have made it through another week, and we are hoping you continue to stay safe and healthy.
As indicated last week, through the duration of this pandemic, Advisory Board staff will be sending a weekly update to all of our membership. Here are some items from the Advisory Board and the MWRA:
- Staff continues to work remotely. Remote briefings with MWRA staff will continue with the Operations Division proposed FY21 CEB briefing and a look at the proposed FY21 CIP
- As is scheduled on our calendar, the Executive Committee meeting for April 10th will be held remotely. Agenda items include discussing the community impacts of COVID-19, FY21 MWRA budget review, Quincy’s request regarding LWSAP borrowing, and the Advisory Board budget for FY21.
- Of particular note, Advisory Board staff will present a plan that would extend community payments for the I/I and water loan programs for the remainder of FY20 and all of FY21 by adding approximately 15 months to the term of the loans.
- If adopted, this proposal could significantly benefit our communities by deferring $35-40 million in payments. Many details still need to be determined.
- Staff, in consultation with Chairman Taverna, have decided to cancel the regularly scheduled April 16th Advisory Board meeting in light of the increasing severity of COVID-19. We hope to hold our regular May meeting on May 21st and will be emailing members with our budget comments.
- Staff is developing a plan to remotely hold our PFAS workshop in June.
- MWRA will be sending their May 2020 invoices (with assessment charges only) via email. Click here to see the notice to communities.
- Mr. Laskey updated all employees with the status of MWRA operations here.
- April 10 | Executive Committee Meeting at 10:00 AM
- April 15 | MWRA Board of Directors Meeting TBD
- April 16 | Advisory Board Meeting Cancelled
Please stay safe. We hope to see you in the near future.
Advisory Board staff will be reaching out to our designees and community leaders with weekly updates. This will take the place of our monthly News and Notes for now. Here is a brief look at what’s happening at the federal, state, Authority, and Advisory Board levels:
- The federal stimulus bill includes $150 billion for state and local governments. We are still waiting for the details on how these funds will be distributed and used.
- The National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) had been urging Congress to include $12.5 billion in the stimulus in order to help public water utilities weather the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Utilities are providing essential clean water services to the public at a time when revenue is falling and many utility employees must continue to show up for work.
- The $12.5 billion is a conservative estimate for the nationwide loss of revenue in clean water utilities due to COVID-19.
- You can find the full statement from NACWA here.
- While many municipalities have suspended construction projects for the time being, Governor Baker wants most projects to continue.
- In this Boston Globe article (paywall), the Administration classifies state projects through DOT and MassPort as essential, despite concerns about construction workers being in close proximity to each other and potentially spreading COVID-19.
- Inconsistent rules between jobs and communities have made the situation confusing for construction workers, who are seeking clearer guidance on the issue. Statewide guidance is expected to be delivered soon.
- MWRA Executive Director Fred Laskey sent an email to all Authority employees on March 24th with an update.
- The Authority continues to provide essential services for three million Massachusetts residents amidst the pandemic, as it has been thorough about safety protocols, regularly sanitizing facilities, and having as many employees telework as possible.
- The MWRA donated 6,000 N95 masks to MEMA to assist in emergency efforts.
- Advisory Board staff is working remotely and is coordinating with Authority staff to continue budget review briefings on a remote basis. Coming up are the Operations Division proposed FY21 CEB briefing and a look at the proposed FY21 CIP.
- Please note: you are welcome to comment on the MWRA’s proposed FY21 budget until May 21, 2020.
- Staff will organize remote Executive Committee and Advisory Board meetings for the month of April. Stay tuned for details.
Please let us know if you have any comments or questions. Staff is always available by email or office phone. Thank you, and stay safe.