To the Editor:
A View of Marion’s Town Meeting Warrant and Future Financial Situation.
Marion voters head to the May 8, 2017 Town Meeting to act on $30.8 million in warrant articles. That’s a lot of money for our small Town – $12,314 for each of our 2,500 taxpayers.
The operating budget is $22 million; water and sewer $5.1 million; and separate warrant authorizations and approvals including the special meeting are $3.7 million.
FY 2018 begins serious capital spending on various Town projects such as the wastewater treatment plant upgrades that will be financed with $1.9 million in debt. The Capital Committee’s 10-year forecast of $85 million appears in the Town Report. Considering $12 million for Town House spending, the capital forecast during a 36-month window FY 2018-20 will be $42 million.
With changing Town demographics and an aging population, educational spending is significant with 48 cents of each tax $1.00 going to the school budgets. The budget includes $10.5 million for education. The Council on Aging budget is $137,000 which is less than we pay for two Sippican School band teachers with six month contracts.
The warrant contains an authorization for Marion’s share of a Tri-Town independent review of ORR spending. A similar review for Sippican School spending too should be considered by a future Town Meeting. School spending needs serious taxpayer attention and administrative realignment.
Marion’s current, forecasted and unfunded liabilities, obligations, commitments and capital spending are estimated to be approximately $170,000,000 or benchmarked at $68,000 for each of Marion’s 2,500 taxpayers: $34,000 per capita based on population of 5,000 or 11% of your property value. This amount consists of debt $40 million; Ten Year Capital forecast $85 million, cost of future debt financing $21 million and unfunded retirement liabilities of $24 million net of the funding reserve.
Marion needs to focus on what is needed in the form of basic municipal services, and not what special interest groups want; the province of private fundraising.
The EPA has issued its permit ultimatum for the sewer system. The five-year permit now outlines what Marion will be required to spend on meeting wastewater discharge among other permit requirements. This will become very expensive for Marion and will trigger the sewer war over who pays for all this expense which can be added to the current Town House spending controversy.
Last year, the Town was presented a $ 28 million proposal for a combination Town House, senior center and library complex to be funded by 2,500 taxpayers. After expensive spending on design work, this proposal was rejected as too expensive. Soon expect to see a special interest project proposal to make an Olympic style venue sports complex at ORR notwithstanding ORR’s $21 million unfunded retirement obligations of which Marion’s share is included in the unfunded obligations above. Grass seed should work well for Marion’s aging taxpayers as a good alternative for ORR’s field restoration.
Marion continues to struggle with its municipal management. Gresham’s law is at work. There is a short supply of qualified individuals willing to run for public office and to serve on boards and committees.
May is an important decision month for Marion voters with Town Meeting and elections. Individual taxpayer impact of the future financial burdens using the $68 million per taxpayer beach mark will be determined by real estate taxes on the valuation of your property, water and sewer rates based on your usage. Look for robust increase in coming years. Forecasted amounts are continuously updated as new information is received for our Town’s dynamic financial environment.
Ted North, Marion
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