Preparing to address the next capital need

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In the last Drummer issue, an article about the budget public hearing erred in saying that the money that the boards view as reserved for the upcoming communications project was included in the recently-approved FY24 budget. It is not in the budget.

The money for the expenditure is being held within the General Fund in anticipation of meeting this need, but it has not been approved for expenditure by the appropriate boards or the public.
Given its dollar magnitude, under the town charter, once an actual appropriation request is approved by both the board of selectmen and then the board of finance, it must go to both a town meeting for explanation and discussion and then a week later to a machine vote, if not included within the annual budget request.

The town-wide communication system encompasses the emergency response sectors of fire, police, ambulance and public works. In brief, the need arises because: 1) there are gaps in the current system in certain areas of town, and 2) most components are 20 years old while others are approaching 40 years and, in many cases, obsolete.

Town government anticipates the replacement project to be finalized for board and then public approval shortly. Given the strength of the town’s financial position, the board of finance anticipates recommending that the appropriation of up to $4M come from existing resources in the general fund, rather than borrowing it. The interest on a 20-year bond at 4 percent would cost about $1.6M over the life of the bond. By utilizing our own cash from the general fund, we save ourselves from that interest cost and having to add into the next budget another almost 1 percent in taxes just to cover the debt service required to pay for it for 20 years.