Residents Need to Know A 'No' Vote Does Not Stop a Tax Increase
Residents will cast their vote for or against additional funds for the school building project Friday at St. Theresa's Parish. Voting for the additional funds will increase residents' tax bills, however, voting against the additional funds will increase t
The following was submitted by Selectman Michael Prisco:
Over 600 residents attended Special Town Meeting at North Reading High School Monday night to vote to appropriate $15.5 million in additional funds for the school building project. Residents voted with paper ballots and the motion passed 525 to 120.
Most residents know the history of the project and why the project now requires additional funds. What most residents may not know is that voting against the additional funds could cost taxpayers more.
A "YES" vote
If residents vote to approve the additional funds, the project will remain on schedule, items will not be removed from the budget, the MSBA will still reimburse the original amount planned and there will be no annual impact on the operating budget. The school will be built the way it was originally designed.
Based on the average home value of $450,000, the tax increase will be $176 per year.
A "NO" vote
If residents decide not to approve the additional funds and vote against it, there could be up to a seven-month project delay at a cost greater than $400,000 per month, the project will not be constructed as it was originally designed and several items will be removed from the budget, including cooling (dehumidification), sports fields, rubber stair treads, tennis courts, vinyl tile flooring and much more.
I was shocked and disappointed to learn last Monday, after several members of the SSBC meet with MSBA prior to Town Meeting that a "NO" vote will result in MSBA reducing its reimbursement commitment.
Voters need to know a "NO" vote" will require major cuts to this project which will result in MSBA to reduce reimbursement at a level that is undetermined at this time, but will truly alter the project.
People need to understand that the SSBC has already done as much value engineering to reduce or eliminate those items that don’t have any MSBA reimbursement eligibility; which means if the voters vote down the $15.5M will only leave the SSBC left with making major cuts on items that MSBA is already committed to provide reimbursement. There has been a lot of finger pointing and blame game going around but I want to tell the public that they should not be blaming MSBA. If the majority of voters elect to vote “NO” they are doing it knowing they are turning away “free money” and forcing the town share of the equation to increase above the $15.5M being requested; which means a “NO” vote actually raises taxes more than what is being requested.
The Town Meeting vote last year authorized spending on the school project up to $107.7 million for the project. This is accomplished by a combination of taxpayer funds through an override and MSBA reimbursement.
To help understand the impact of what this means, with the help of Selectman Bob Mauceri, we created the attached chart that illustrates how much the town's share could increase if residents vote against the additional funds. I urge voters to please take a look at the chart carefully before they cast their vote to fully understand the consequences of a “YES” vs. “NO” vote.
People don't realize that a “NO” vote will actually cost the taxpayers more money. I'm not trying to scare people; I'm just trying to be honest. When I learned of this fact last Monday, I was angry and outraged like everyone else because the BOS and SSBC members understand that this puts the tax payers in a “damned if I do, and damned if I don’t" situation.
We already have $40 million committed to this project. If the voters say no, we can’t turn our back on this investment. We (BOS) will be forced to borrow funds within the already authorized $107.7M to make up for any loss in reimbursement from MSBA. I understand the impact this requested tax increase is going to be on the community, especially our Seniors. But I also know, with this much money already invested in this project, we can’t just turn a blind eye to the issues.
Unfortunately, this is the position we find ourselves in, with very little good choices.
Residents are urged to vote at St. Theresa’s Parish between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. Friday at the Special Election to finalize the appropriation and add the $15.5 million to the project.