By Nancy Arsenault
Town Administrator Bill Wrigley announced at last night’s Board of Selectmen meeting, that he supports a plan to give money back to the taxpayers as a result of a surplus of stored assets and free cash in the town coffers. This is just one aspect of the financial information that residents need to digest as they consider three capital projects at the upcoming Special Town Meeting on October 29.
“You set your taxes,” said Selectman Chairman Charlie Kern, referring to the voters. “We don’t do it. You do it at Town Meeting.” That is where the Finance Committee will present their analysis of the tax impact of all of the projects if approved, or just some of the projects, if approved. That committee, along with Capital Planning and the Selectmen are also planning to give their recommendations about each project before the votes are taken. The Finance Committee voted last week to support the Fire Station, Library and Community Center projects. “You will decide what you support and what, if any, you want to pay for,” said Selectman Jim Salvie, reading from a prepared statement to appear in The Stow Independent on October 24th.
Cognizant of the increasing tax burden many voters anticipate if the projects are all approved, the Selectmen discussed ways to lessen the pain for residents. “If all of these are approved, I don’t plan to vote for another thing for the next 5-10 years” said Selectman Tom Ryan, echoing what he believes many residents also feel.
Wrigley had suggested a minimal contribution of $50,000 from stored assets be applied to the final costs of the approved projects, to lessen what is required to be paid by taxpayers as a means to lessen the tax impact. “We are blessed with a stored asset amount that can allow us to do several things, like buying down the cost of capital projects, or somehow making a direct benefit to the taxpayer, or take stored asset contributions right of the budget, which will all accomplish the same thing,” said Wrigley.
Jim Salvie also inquired as to what debts are going away, essentially being paid off in the next year or so, and how would that compare to debt being gained by these projects. The Finance Committee will be preparing that information for initial release at the next public hearing on October 18. There will also be revised presentations from all of the building committees that night. Voter registration for Town Meeting ends October 19 (voter registration for the November 6 election ends October 17).
Wrigley announced that the towns of Bolton and Lancaster both voted down the funding request from the Nashoba Regional School District to renovate the high school science labs. Only one negative vote from either town was needed to kill the project. While the Nashoba District will most likely present the Stow article as one requiring “no action”, the voters at Stow’s Town Meeting will have the option to take a vote on the subject. “They can decide that night,’ said Wrigley, if Stow wishes to have a formal decision recorded on the proposal.
Tom Ryan reported that the new traffic management plan implemented by the Police and coordinated with the Martin family of Honey Pot Hill Orchards, worked especially well over Columbus Day weekend. “I spent about four hours there walking around and watching,” said Ryan. “Other than one backup that extended briefly to State Road, it went very smoothly. We had direct communication with the Martins and when we saw traffic backing up, we could radio them to open another lot, which they did right away. Some residents actually thanked the police for being there. I think we have made a lot of progress,” he concluded.
Resident Janet Stiles read from a prepared statement referring to a recent decision from the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office that found ESBC Co-Chair Ellen Sturgis in violation of the Open Meeting Law, pertaining to two emails. The emails had been sent by Sturgis to 10 of 11 committee members, and then committee members were invited to comment, creating an environment of potential discussion that was not before the public. While the AG determined that this was a violation, they did not see the violation as intentional. The Selectmen thanked Stiles for apprising them of her opinion on the matter, but did not comment or give any opinion of their own. See related article on page 1.
Patrick Hopkins, a 6-year resident of Stow, has volunteered to fill one of the vacant positions on the Historical Commission. Hopkins was welcomed into town service by the Selectmen and thanked for volunteering. One voting position still remains open on that committee.