MSD measure asks how to fund upgrades

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The Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District is asking voters in St. Louis County and the city of St. Louis to make a decision this spring on a $500 million bond issue that will increase wastewater rates to pay for the sewer district’s $1.58 billion consent decree with the federal government.

Proposition Y, on the April 6, 2021 ballot, will determine how MSD’s federal government-mandated water improvement plan Project Clear, or MSDPC, funds the next phase of required wastewater system improvements over a three-year period from July 2021 to June 2024.

MSD customers and voters have to pay for the upgrades either way, but Prop Y asks how to pay: Higher rates or through bond financing that will cost more in interest for the long term but keep rates lower.

A “yes” vote gives MSDPC the ability to issue $500 million in bonds to fund some of the $1.58 billion in required work and repay that debt over a 20- to 30-year period. A “no” vote means MSDPC will pay for the work as it’s done, exclusively through rate increases; this will mean higher rates in the short term, but lower costs overall since no interest will be paid.

With bond financing, a monthly bill that is curently $56.40 will rise 3.5 percent to $60.36 in 2023 and 3.7 percent to $62.59 in 2024. Without bond financing, that same bill will rise 17.1 percent to $76.12 in 2023 and 13 percent to $86.12 in 2024.

The public can learn more about Proposition Y and ask questions at a series of live virtual public meetings on Zoom and Facebook Live. MSD Executive Director and CEO Brian Hoelscher will also take questions from participants.

The next events will be held at 6 p.m. Wednesday, March 24 and Wednesday, March 31 at 6 p.m. Sign up for the town halls at msdprojectclear.org/townhalls.