On Tuesday May 28 at 7 p.m., a Town Meeting will be held to present and discuss three capital appropriation requests, which will then be forwarded to a referendum scheduled for a week later, as prescribed within the Town Charter. These seek approval for 1) replacing five bridges that date back some 60 years to after the 1955 flood, 2) construction of an electricity-generating solar array behind Wells Road School primarily on land previously generously donated to the town by the Janeski family, and 3) education- and infrastructure-related improvements at the campus housing the now nearly 30-year-old Middle School and the High School which was renovated and expanded almost 20 years ago.
In aggregate, these three capital appropriation requests – once approved – would authorize up to $25 million in gross expenditure. This includes design and engineering, permits as needed, construction, and bonding costs as well as interim financing. The net cost to the town is projected to be about $11 million–—roughly $14 million less than the gross—after applying the estimated reimbursement amounts. The bridges are eligible for cost-sharing plans that split the cost 50/50 under the state program, or 80/20 under the federal/local program. The reimbursement percentage for qualifying portions of both school projects is 39 percent. It is estimated that these reimbursement levels will reduce the net need to bond down to roughly $11 million even if the full $25 million authorized should need to be utilized. Both numbers would decrease if the bids come in lower than the conservative cost estimates, all to our benefit.
The Capital Program Priority Advisory Committee – CPPAC – recommended these projects for action this year after analyzing their impact on future years’ budgets and the mill rate implications. Essentially, we expect that when the full impact of the bonding is integrated into the budget a few years out and utilizing 20-year bonds, the debt service —principal and interest— for the bridges will equate to about 1 percent of the tax bill, the school campus project a similar 1 percent, and the solar 0.6 percent. In total they will then represent about 2.6 percent of the tax bill, but are also offset by 1 percent which represents the benefits of the solar array found in the reduction of the electricity bill for the schools and the revenue the Town would get from Eversource for the next 15 years. The bottom line is that these projects, if approved, will represent about a net 1.6 percent of the property tax bill in FY 25. For someone who pays $6,000 in property taxes, it will represent about $96 annually, or 26 cents a day.
If the voters should not approve these capital requests, many of the items will have to be dealt with directly through upcoming budgets, thereby putting pressure on the mill rates as well as on fund balance. Roofs and the HVAC units on them need to be dealt with – the HS roof already required repair this past winter. The bridges need to be dealt with – two were already closed last year after the state inspections. Simply put, doing items piecemeal will cost us more near term than moving forward with the recommended capital plan.
For all the above reasons, the Boards recommend approval of the three projects as both the most prudent and beneficial course of action for Granby’s future and its citizens.