Bonds discussed at Peterborough Budget Hearing

  • Budget Committee Chair Roland Patton, and Select Board members Ed Juengst and Barbara Miller present bond articles during the Peterborough Budget Hearing on Tuesday.  Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Wednesday, March 07, 2018

During a public hearing Tuesday, as the Select Board and Budget Committee ran down millions of dollars in proposed bonds, several residents urged the town to be conservative in their spending.

With a nearly 9 percent increase in the tax rate this year, residents asked for estimated tax impacts to some of the biggest items discussed at the Budget Hearing, including the largest single expense, the proposed library renovation.

Town Administrator Rodney Bartlett outlined the potential tax impact – with caveats that estimates may change based on interest rates and town valuation. A proposed $3 million bond, which would be put towards a $8.5 million renovation of the library could have between 41 cents and 26 cents per $1,000 of valuation, depending upon the length of the bond. The interest on the bond, could range between $906,000 and $1.89 million, based on a 3.5 percent interest rate.

Budget Committee member Rich Clark was a lone standout when it came time for the Budget Committee to vote whether or not to approve the article, pointing to the high-interest rate among his reasons.

“That’s a million dollars we don’t get to spend on the town,” said Clark.

Several residents pressed Library Director Corinne Chronopoulos for commitments that the $3 million would be the extent of the tax payer burden related to the project. Chronopoulos assured the crowd that it was the library’s intent to have the remaining $5.5 million in hand prior to construction, and that if costs came in under the projected budget, it would be used to reduce the town’s bond. 

Resident Andy Dunbar asked what the town of Sharon, which has access to the Peterborough Library, would be contributing to the project. While trustees told the crowd that the trustees would likely be making a move to increase costs for Sharon to be more in-line with its non-resident fees, they have not had that conversation and would likely not do so until after the renovations were complete.

Bridges, dams and roadwork

The town is proposing several infrastructure projects in the area of Route 202 and Main Street, to accompany the long-proposed Main Street Bridge replacement project.

The town had already approved raising the town’s 20 percent portion of the project, with the other 80 percent covered by state bridge aid, during Town Meeting in 2016. However, explained Bartlett, as the project looms closer, the estimated cost has gone up by about $350,000.

The town will be seeking to disband the vote taken in 2016, and re-raise the total amount of the town’s portion, which is currently set at $1.19 million. The total cost of the project is proposed to be $5.97 million, and is set to begin in February of 2019.

Work proposed to be done in conjunction with that project is also on the ballot, including burying utilities between the library and Pine Street. That work, if approved, would be completed prior to the Main Street bridge reconstruction.

When questioned on the benefits of burying lines, Bartlett said they were “mainly aesthetic,” but added there could be safety improvements by removing poles that were located close to the roadway as well.

There is also expected to be reconstruction on Route 202, but the total $5.9 million cost will be offset by state and federal funds. 

The total tax impact for both the Main Street bridge, Route 202 reconstruction and burying utilities will be between 20 and 22 cents per thousand.

The town is also asking for a $300,000 bond to repair the Transcript Dam. Bartlett told residents that the dam is considered “low impact” and mainly provides an aesthetic view for the downtown. The town has looked at breaching the dam, said Barlett, but found the mitigation related to that would be significantly more expensive than repairing it – more than $1 million. 

Resident Joanne Carr questioned whether the work had to be done this year, and suggested creating a capital reserve to start to save for repairs instead.

Bartlett replied that a portion of the dam will be repaired during the Main Street bridge repairs, and that this year will be the most economical time to complete the repairs to the rest of the dam at the same time.