Letter: Libraries And Schools and Taxes

I respect the views of Allison McDonald, hardworking Amherst School Committee Chair, expressed in Letter: Libraries And Schools, but I must quibble with her assertion that we have the financial capacity to fund both the library and elementary school projects.  The FAQ that Allison cites makes it clear that the Town can only afford the four building projects if residents approve a debt exclusion override.  The Town having the funding ability and the Taxpayers having the funding ability are two different things. Whether residents have the capacity or the will to approve a tax hike beyond Proposition 2 ½ limits remains to be determined.

Should the November 2 library referendum fail, and the Trustees be sent back to the drawing board, the Town will have $35.3M more in borrowing power when the time comes to arrange funding for the elementary school replacement project.  This sum can be used to reduce the size of, or possibly even eliminate the need for, an override attached to the school project.  In 2016, Amherst residents passed the debt exclusion override for the Wildwood School replacement by only 126 votes.  It seems risky to me to gamble that Amherst residents will approve an $80M tax override on the heels of a 4.1% tax increase last year and a large property revaluation this year.

Reaching into taxpayers’ pockets after spending tens of millions of dollars to expand what is already the largest library in Hampshire County is not going to help sell a new elementary school.  And in Massachusetts, where a two-thirds super-majority is required to approve municipal borrowing, broad public support for any successful building project is essential.

Jeff Lee

Jeff Lee is a resident of Amherst

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2 thoughts on “Letter: Libraries And Schools and Taxes

  1. Should the referendum fail, the town will NOT have 35.3 million more in borrowing power to spend on the schools.
    Should the referendum fail, we will still be spending 15 million dollars more on getting the library up to code and attending to deferred maintenance.
    We will not have the 14 million dollars from the state.
    The Library will have a much harder time raising the 6 million dollars from donors.
    It seems to me that we as a town are going to be spending 15 million dollars on the library no matter what. If the referendum fails, we just lose the additional 20 million dollars that we would have put toward a new library. We don’t get to put that money towards the schools.

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