In 2013, the Trustees asked for a $7,500 warrant article to hire a consultant, given the difficulties we had serving our residents. The voters passed this article on the first ask. The outcome of that work was clarity that an expansion was imminent.
In 2017, the Trustees asked for a $50,000 warrant article to organize initial planning and architect work. Again the article easily passed first ask with plenty of voter support.
The Trustees were ready for a construction bond issue in 2019, but some Trustees were asked by Safety Services supporters to wait another year, which we agreed to as a group.
Since that time, March 2019, the library trustees have been planning a bond issue for March 2020. The Safety Services group will also be coming to voters for a bond issue request. The idea of two bond issues seems to have created some discord among a minority of residents.
Who decided there must be an either/or choice?
There is no doubt Newbury’s volunteer firefighters and EMTs need a new, safe building. These people are our town heroes. They put themselves on the line for us every time they get an unexpected call. Who in town isn’t grateful for their training and commitment? Health and safety issues have become critical for them. The library trustees respect the need and fully support a new fire station in Newbury.
However, two warrant articles have passed in Newbury in the same year. Why not this year? In some towns, libraries and fire stations have actually teamed up, planned together, and asked for one warrant article, together. Voters had a clear understanding of what the overall costs would be. Our fire station and our library expansion projects are not competing. We are all aiming to create a better community experience for Newbury.
The library trustees have confidence in Newbury’s residents to vote responsibly, and study the merits of each project. They can pass both bond issues. But, they can turn them down or choose one over the other based on the benefits of each project. If for some reason a voter likes both projects, but he or she feels the town can only afford one, the library trustees encourage a vote for the fire station. Safety First.
What is the best choice from a financial perspective?
Looking into the crystal ball, we believe each project will be financed with a 20-year bond, so waiting a year to pass the next warrant article makes little financial sense. Staggering the bond issues by one year means one year of a single bond payment, 19 years of double bond payments, and a final year of a single bond payment. There aren’t much savings compared to double bonds over 20 years.
But here is the catch. Construction costs continue to rise, and bond rates appear to be moving up. Taxes may net higher if the projects are staggered, meaning the cost may be less in the long run if both warrant articles pass this March.
The proposed library expansion and the proposed fire station are on adjoining land. It may also be possible for taxpayers to save on construction costs if the Selectboard approves the same building contractor. The projects, built together, may require only one superintendent, only one project manager, one team of traffic control, and so forth. So why wouldn’t we pass both bond issues in the same year?
We are asking residents to come together for these bond issues. There is enough discord in America these days. A unified town is a strong town. A town with robust services attracts new businesses, new residents, and keeps a town economically healthy. And while there is a tax cost to building excellent facilities, an attractive residential town leads to higher home values and a greater personal net worth for homeowners. The result is that we all live better in this beautiful town.