LETTER: SOPHIE’S CHOICE: BIGGER LIBRARY OR NEW SCHOOL?

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Editor’s note:  this letter also appeared in the Amherst Bulletin. 

If you had to choose between an expanded Jones library and a new elementary school, which would you choose? That could be the “Sophie’s Choice” facing Amherst this year.

The $13.9 million library grant from the state is expected to be awarded in June, and the town will then have six months to secure the funding to cover the $22 million balance. Town officials have said a property tax increase (debt exclusion override) will likely be needed to pay for it, which would require a majority vote by residents.

An elementary school project will also require a property tax increase to pay for it, but it won’t be put to voters until 2022.

How likely is it that Amherst residents would approve two substantial property tax increases in two years? If the library project moves forward, and a debt exclusion override to pay for it passes this fall or next spring, could that jeopardize a new school vote? Is that a risk worth taking?

In an ideal world, Amherst would be able to afford it all — a new school, fire station, DPW facility and an expanded library — while also maintaining roads, sidewalks, other town buildings and equipment, playgrounds, athletic fields, etc., but in reality, the town has to live within its means and make some difficult choices.

What would you choose?

Toni Cunningham, Amherst

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6 thoughts on “LETTER: SOPHIE’S CHOICE: BIGGER LIBRARY OR NEW SCHOOL?

  1. Of course, we can refuse the grant money and the huge project! That would mean, however, that we still need to give attention to many of the library’s physical needs while coordinating with other town services that offer some of the community programs.

  2. It seems to me that there are some easy ways for the public to weigh in on the issues involved in these 4 big yet very different capital projects—and to ask questions, offer ideas and information. The town website can be a forum for info, views, survey monkey questionnaires, etc. It’s hard for most residents to come to meetings, get comprehensive info, ask questions, and offer information that they have. There also is not enough time at meetings to really learn about a project and discuss it.

  3. Yes, the Town Council needs to figure out a way to get the public’s pulse on the priorities of the four capital projects. The hyper-management of comments during the four Listening Sessions for the projects did not allow for such discussion. I agree with Janet that making use of the Town’s website for a survey would be a great way to gather this information.

  4. Reduce each project from “must have the very best”, “tip top” and more toward value purchases (each entity seems at war with the other: school admin – ‘the best’, library – same, etc, etc)? Have Councilors prioritize the 4 projects so as to remain w/in our means?

    Chad Fuller

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