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Letter: Why can't Lexington pay less too?

Thursday, November 3, 2005

NStar recently billed us $113 for the 750 kWh per month of electricity we use in our small house. Over a full year, our NStar electric bills total $1,257. But a family pays for the same electricity only $939 in Concord, $926 in Belmont and $782 in Wellesley, $375 less per year on average than in Lexington.

     Why do Concord, Belmont and Wellesley enjoy electricity 30% cheaper than in Lexington? Because Concord, Belmont and Wellesley each have a municipal electric utility ("muni"), not NStar.

     Munis are locally controlled public entities which, just like NStar, supply homes, businesses and town facilities with electricity produced elsewhere (power plants). But unlike NStar, munis provide reliable service with fewer outages, promote green energy sources, place utility wires underground and offer attractive rates (see

     Next spring, Lexington will vote on the Community Preservation Act ("CPA"). With CPA, state funds match a slight increase in local taxes to let the town acquire more open space, do historic preservation and provide more affordable housing. In our case, the CPA would add $125 to our annual local taxes (now $4,445). Some will argue that $125 more in taxes is too much. But $125 is just a third of the $375 cut on our annual electric bills if a future Lexington muni can emulate Concord, Belmont and Wellesley.

     Over time, good schools, open space, strong municipal services and the other valuable things we want for Lexington cost more in taxes. We must also aggressively seek cost savings in promising areas, for example a Lexington muni. Once Rep. Jay Kaufman's enabling legislation is adopted, Lexington should study the economics of replacing NStar with a muni.

Richard Stephenson
Spring Street