March 28, 2017

Clearing Up Misconceptions About the Proposed Municipal Complex

Posted

I write to you today to set the record straight on some misinformation being circulated around town in regard to the proposed municipal complex. The current Board of Selectmen is committed to providing citizens with answers to all questions and moving through the process in an open and transparent manner. Working with, and through, the building committee we conducted public information sessions and offered unfettered access to both town hall and the public safety building. We have maintained a section on the Town’s website dedicated to the details of the proposed project so residents could obtain information on their schedule. We have done this so our residents could be informed, become educated as to the details, and make their own, informed, decision. Recently I have been challenged by some who are relying on misinformation they are “hearing around town”. Let me address a couple of those misunderstandings here.

First is the question of “how are we going to pay for this?” We have been very transparent in answering this question, yet it appears there is still some confusion caused by the disinformation being circulated. Here are the facts. We will fund the project by borrowing money and paying it back over a fixed period of time, much like one would take out a mortgage to build or buy a house. The cost to repay the money borrowed to complete the project will be raised by a temporary increase to the real estate tax you pay. We anticipate the temporary increase to the tax bill (on an annual basis) to about $40 per $100,000 of the property’s assessed value. For example, if your house is assessed at $350,000 the temporary annual increase in taxes is estimated to be $140, or $11.66 per month. Why do I refer to this as a temporary tax increase? Simply because once the debt associated with the project is retired; the temporary tax increase is eliminated. The easiest way to think of ‘debt-exclusion’ is to think of it as a mortgage – when the house is paid for you stop sending checks to the bank. For example, we make our last payment to the lender for the Council of Aging Building Project in April 2017. Going forward your tax bill be will be reduced by the amount we were all paying as a temporary tax increase associated with this project.

I also want to remind everyone that we plan to use the recurring income generated from the ‘payment in lieu of taxes’ (PILOT) program to offset a portion of the yearly debt payment associated with the municipal complex project. Doing this will require approval each year at Annual Town Meeting and, if approved, will reduce the amount which will need to be raised through the temporary tax increase.

Next, I’ve been told it is “unsafe to have police, fire, and ambulance in the building next to town hall”. The truth is having our dedicated first responders located next to our town hall is increasing the safety factor for our town hall employees and those who conduct business there. The notion that our first responders will be speeding around town hall is preposterous. Our “public safety” employees put public safety at the forefront of everything they do and are highly trained in every aspect of their jobs; including driving safely and defensively. I am much more concerned about the way people drive in the Cumberland Farms parking lot than I am about the way our first responders drive around the public safety building.

We have also discussed the possibility of extending town hall operating hours into the evening for the convenience of our residents. We cannot consider this option at the present location due to safety and security concerns. Having Town Hall adjacent to the Public Safety Building addresses security concerns, since proximity insures a quicker response time for situations requiring police intervention or in the event medical assistance is required.

More than 20-years ago the then Board of Selectmen created a building study committee to prioritize the needs of our Town. Their report concluded the two top building priorities were the public safety building and town hall. I think it is safe to assume neither building has improved since that study was conducted. Our present day building committee has put forth a well-thought out and fiscally prudent plan which addresses the immediate needs of our public safety and town government departments and incorporates sufficient room for anticipated growth. My request is that you take the time to become informed of the facts, discuss and ask your questions of those who can answer them factually, form your own opinion and vote your conscience.

Check out the municipal complex project on the town’s website: www.town.rehoboth.ma.us. and send your questions to gschwall@town.rehoboth.ma.us I will answer all emails and include your questions during the selectman update portion of the BOS meetings.

Gerry Schwall

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