With Town Meeting less than a week away, it is time to crack open the warrant and dig into articles. The challenge with Town Meeting is the difficulty asking an extended series of questions and actually getting answers, or even having a debate. So this year, vowing to be more prepared, I have already combed the warrant and submitted questions to the various town committees. Here is a summary of some positions and questions I have on the articles.
Article 4 - FY 13 Budget
The warrant does not list the current OPEB liabilities the town and school systems have accrued. These figures represent the future payments we will need to make to retirees for both pensions and health benefits. Also not listed is the rental income the town receives from tenants in town-owned buildings (this does not refer to the Sudbury Housing Authority). I also can’t find the total amount of overdue tax liabilities owed the town.
Article 11: Real Estate Tax Exemption
The real estate tax exemption is the right article to support some of our fellow residents. The warrant, however, does not list the total amount of tax revenue that is lost from these exemptions.
Article 12: Town and School Revolving Funds
I believe this is a relatively benign article except that there is an inaccuracy in the warrant. At last year’s Town Meeting, we approved the creation of a Regional Housing Services Office to provide services to neighboring towns. I asked at Town Meeting if this would cost us anything and was assured by Selectman O’Brien that everything including OPEB would be covered by fees from neighboring towns. Unfortunately, according to a simple income statement supplied by the Regional Housing Services Offices, we, the town of Sudbury taxpayers, are paying the retirement benefits for this entire team. The income from neighboring towns does not cover our OPEB. Hence, we are losing money in this endeavor.
Article 29: Sudbury Housing Trust
Last year we witnessed town residents fighting their own Sudbury Housing Trust over a project on Maynard Road. The project was modified, but now the developer does not appear to be doing anything with the project. What is the status of this project?
On a similar note, will the Sudbury Housing Trust agree not to use any CPA money to fund 40B housing and construct all further housing in accordance with our local zoning? And will the SHT release more detailed financial statements?
Article 30 – Pantry Brook Property
The article in last week’s paper noted that the Sudbury Valley Trustees will be managing the property. Why would we as tax payers buy the agricultural restriction then turn over control to a third party? More importantly, how will the CPC pay for the purchase? Currently the CPC has over $8M in the bank on which they receive about $150K in investment income. For many of their past purchases, the CPC has taken out bonds to pay for the properties rather than using the cash in this account. The result is we are paying $416K annually in interest expenses. Hence, we the taxpayers are losing over $250K per year in the spread between what we get on interest from the bank for our deposit, and what we pay creditors for the bonds.
Said another way, the CPC is able to significantly get all of us into debt by continuously bonding the properties we vote to purchase rather than paying for them with cash.
Finally, beyond the beauty of the property, there are some solid economic reasons to purchase the property. Each acre of land could be used for single family homes or worse, high-density 40B development. This type of development costs the town by potentially adding children to the schools and further burdening our structural deficit. What costs are we avoiding by purchasing this property?
Those are my questions on the warrant articles. What are yours? Town Meeting is next week.
15 Revere St.