The Town has accepted provisions of Massachusetts General Law, Chapter 110 whereby water and sewer debt costs are transferred to the tax levy. Per vote of the Select Board, the MWRA Debt Shift has been fixed at $5,593,112 since FY2007. The Select Board voted to decrease this shift to $3,691,454 in FY2021, then to $1,845,737 in FY2022, and to eliminate it thereafter. The effect will be to decrease property taxes and to increase water and sewer rates.
Part of the MWRA budget pays for the actual operating costs of providing clean water and disposing of sewage responsibly. But in 1982, the courts ordered that the Boston Harbor must be cleaned up, and the MWRA began a major capital expenditure to solve the problem with major construction, known as the Boston Harbor Project. This was largely financed by issuing debt.
The MWRA charges Arlington for a portion of both its operating costs and service on the debt. Arlington has elected to shift part of the debt service charges to the property tax. This can benefit property owners by allowing that portion to be deductible from federal taxes. However, since recent tax law changes have increased the use of standard deductions, the debt shift is becoming less valuable to property owners, so the Select Board voted to reduce and eventually eliminate the debt shift.