WAKEFIELD — Local ratepayers will see a 3.5 percent increase in their water rates and a 2.15 percent hike in the sewer rates for FY 2023, which begins July 1, 2022. The Town Council approved the increases after much discussion last night. 

The Advisory Board of Public Works had recommended increases of 3.5 percent for both the water and sewer rates, but the Town Council last night saw fit to reduce the sewer increase to 2.15 percent. 

Town Councilors Edward Dombroski and Michael McLane also advocated for a smaller increase in the water rate (3 percent), but were outvoted 5-2. 

With the 3.5 percent increase, the quarterly water bill for an average Wakefield household will be $180.10. 

Under the Advisory BPW’s recommendation of a 3.5 percent increase in the sewer rates, the average household quarterly sewer bill would have gone from $255.30 last year to $263.49 in FY 2023. With the reduction in the rate of increase to 2.15 percent, the average bill per quarter will fall somewhere in between those figures (approximately $260.79). 

With the lower sewer increase, the combined quarterly water and sewer bill for the average Wakefield ratepayer will also be several dollars less than the original projection of $443.59 ($399.23 with the 10 percent discount for on-time payment.) 

Consultant Matt Abrahams of the Abrahams Group joined the meeting via Zoom and provided a breakdown and analysis of the proposed rates, along with some historical perspective and future projections. He also discussed the significance of the MWRA’s assessments to the town and their impact on the water and sewer rates.  

After Dombroski’s failed amendment to reduce the water rate increase, he then called for lowering the amount of the sewer rate increase to 1 percent. That also failed by a 6-1 vote. 

Dombroski argued that the proposed rates were “unsustainable.” He called for “the absolute minimum” increase in the rates, citing the current precarious economic climate in which many cannot afford the increases. 

McLane agreed with Dombroski on reducing the water rate increase to 3 percent. He pointed to the Water Division’s retained earnings and reserves.  

“We’re in pretty good shape,” he said, and wondered about the possibility of going a full 1 percent lower on the water rate increase. 

Dombroski suggested going with a 3 percent increase on the water rates and a 2 percent increase in the sewer rates.  

Abrahams admitted that “we could make it work.” 

Town Councilor Robert Vincent advocated going with the recommended 3.5 percent increase in the water rates and a 2.15 percent increase in the sewer rates. It was noted that a smaller increase of 2.15 percent for the sewer rates was an option that the Advisory Board of Public Works had considered and there was some support on the BPW for the smaller increase.  

DPW Director Joseph Conway and several members of his staff and the Advisory Board of Public Works attended last night’s meeting via Zoom. 

Advisory BPW member Elena Proakis-Ellis said that she was more comfortable with reducing the sewer rate increase than she would be with a smaller increase in the water rates. She cited more risk for water revenue. A rainy summer can decrease water use (and revenues) considerably. 

Town Councilor Anne Danehy worried that a smaller increase in the water rate this year could mean a larger increase next year. 

Ultimately, the Town Council approved the 3.5 percent increase in the water rates and a 2.15 percent increase in the sewer rates. They also approved the recommended sewer flat rate of $389.86 ($350.87 after the 10 percent discount).