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Saturday, February 04, 2006

Less Than A Dollar A Week

On another thread on the Cape Cod Today web site which carries his ruminations, Porcupine has been disagreeing with Cape Cod Crusader about being insensitive to the needs of Dorchester and other area towns. Crusader said, "You should not mention names of towns when you talk about this subject. You sound as if you are discriminating, and stereotyping which leads to alienation and fear of a certain region. I realize there are individuals who should be doing more for themselves. I could name a few towns on the Cape that encourage unflattering behavior, I could also mention towns that appear, say prefer to retain a less diverse populace of race, class and religion. But I don't mention the towns by name, because that is NOT THE POINT. " My rejoinder was, "Crusader - you are exactly wrong. The name of the city IS the point. Feel free to substitute Chelsea, Somerville, Brookline, Cambridge, etc. The purpose of the various formulas for distributing state aid, be it for education, roads, or lottery, is that they are rigged for maximum benefit for Boston and environs. Worcester, New Bedford and Lowell are thrown enough to keep them quiet. I am entirely alienated from the Boston region already, thank you."

Why do I mention this? Because it is exactly relevant to the new demand for cash from the Legislature by the Massachusetts Water Resource Authority (MWRA).

Porcupine admits to being something of a zealot on this subject. He has spent hours on their web site (
HERE), muttering unflattering imprecations to himself about the greed and obliviousness of this Boston super-bureaucracy, which takes in 60 urbanized cities and towns.
Taken from the web site is an explanation of the money demand - "In the early years of , repayment of principal on large capital projects was deferred to protect ratepayers from the sudden impact of rapid spending. " (WHY?)

"In response to a growing public outcry against rising water and sewer rates (BY THOSE IN BOSTON), the legislature appropriated $20 million to MWRA in FY1994 for the Commonwealth’s Sewer Rate Relief Fund, also known as 'debt service assistance.' This amount was enough to offset 20% of MWRA’s debt service for wastewater projects (THIS IS THE OUTFALL PIPE). By FY2002, the appropriation had grown to almost $53 million and included debt services for the MetroWest Water Supply Tunnel (YES, INDEED, LET'S EXPAND THE SUBSIDY SINCE IT 'S WORKING SO WELL! NO SENSE SENDING IT TO THOSE RICH CAPE COD SCHOOLS OR ANYTHING!). Debt service assistance was designed to offset revenues that would otherwise have to come directly from ratepayers (LIKE IT DOES EVERYWHERE ELSE IN THE STATE!). "

""In FY2003, the program was eliminated in response to the state's fiscal crisis. (NINE YEARS FOR THE GRAVY TRAIN TO END!) This cut represented a 10% reduction in MWRA’s annual revenue in the middle of the year. (PLEASE NOTE - THE FIGURE JUST CHANGED FROM A 20% SUBSIDY OF DEBT SERVICE TO 10% OF ANNUAL REVENUE). Other than state debt service assistance, MWRA has no impact on the state budget. (THE IMPACT IS IN THE MONEY IT SUCKS AWAY FROM THE OTHER CITIES AND TOWNS, AND OUT OF TAXPAYERS POCKETS!) Over 90% of MWRA’s total revenue is derived from users’ rates and charges. (GEE, IT'S 100% HERE!)"

Tell me, when did the state last help Cape Cod with IT'S water and sewer troubles? Why is money from the General Fund dedicated to 60 out of 351 cities and towns? " The MWRA Advisory Board has been working tirelessly to have state debt service assistance restored. So far, 49 communities have signed a resolution to have funding restored at a minimum of $25 million." I just bet they have.

You may say, Porcupine, this is a big issue. Most of the ratepayers in the State are in the MWRA. Yet the MWRA is condemned by its own practices. From another page on their interesting web site comes this statistic (
HERE). Their Community Support Program has provided $181 million in grants and interest free loans to member communities for sewer engineering, pipe replacement, and rehabilitation, and $250 million in water pipe rehabilitation project grants and loans. If they eliminated the grant system, or charged a Prime MINUS One interest rate - would they have the money to pay their own debt service instead of expecting a bailout from the rest of us via the Legislature? While the statement has been removed from their web site now, very recently the MWRA bragged about being able to hold is rate increases to UNDER 2% per year - despite the fact that when they came with begging bowl to the Legislature, they promised to phase in the debt service on these projects.

What galls Porcupine the most is - the projected annual increase for an average household is - drum roll, please - $41 per YEAR. Yes, the entire state needs to bail out the MWRA to prevent their ratepayers from paying an increase of less than a dollar a week.

As I said to Crusader at the outset, these communities already benefit unfairly from Chapter 70, Chapter 90 and Lottery formulas. Yet we here on Cape are told to suck it up when it comes to property tax, insurance rates, and our OWN water and sewer problems. After all, how can the Legislature spend money on a strictly regional problem like that?

Any Cape legislator who votes to give the MWRA an additional penny should be removed from office - and we all should be watching.


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