As an associate member of the Finance Committee, I’d like to correct misinformation spread during this election season regarding the Town Hall project and the proposed increase in the Community Preservation Act surcharge. The Finance Committee voted 6-0 in favor of both, and here’s why.
Long-term neglect of Town Hall is obvious; for example, it does not meet current building code and is a fire hazard (no sprinklers). Not acting will increase costs with no value added. Current bond rates are favorable, with short-term lending at 1 percent and the bond itself at 4 percent. Scaling back the project to deferred maintenance and code compliance only could cost $3 million versus the $3.9 million needed for the full Town Hall renovation and rebuilding. Favoring the latter approach, the Finance Committee recommended that $2.9 million be raised through exempt debt and $1 million from CPA funds, funds matched by the state at approximately 20 percent.
Remembering last year’s annual Town Meeting vote, the town supported and made a commitment to move forward — “we can’t afford to wait another year” — on the Town Hall project. There have been over 1,500 hours of expert research on this project, not to mention substantial public input. Time, money, expertise and interest rates all argue for the Town Hall project. Essentially, the town would be saving ahead of time, interest-free, as opposed to paying a bond, thus borrowing less and reducing overall debt.
Finally, the suggestion that property taxes will increase by roughly 30 percent by 2020 if the CPA surcharge of 3 percent is approved is a misrepresentation of the numbers; the typical 2.5 percent increase levied annually by the town, compounded over the next 8 years, would have property taxes naturally increasing to 26 percent. The remaining 4 percent may be applied toward future projects such as Hildreth House, the Old Library, DPW/Fire Department requests, the new well, road work, etc.
Come Election Day, I urge residents to base their votes on facts, and not on what I believe is political posturing.