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Woodard: Time for Sudbury to Catch Up on Capital Needs

The vice chairman of the Board of Selectmen advises Sudbury to "avoid debt other than for large projects."

Selectmen Bob Haarde, left, and Chuck Woodard are seen during the Jan. 14 meeting. Staff photo by Robert Fucci.
Selectmen Bob Haarde, left, and Chuck Woodard are seen during the Jan. 14 meeting. Staff photo by Robert Fucci.
Last year Chuck Woodard said his experience in finance would be a benefit to Sudbury as a member of the Board of Selectmen.

During the Board's Jan. 14 meeting, he put that background to good use during a presentation for a long-term capital funding strategy.

The Board's vice chairman said Sudbury cannot go forward experiencing massive financial peaks and valleys while continuing to delay capital expenditures.

"Sudbury has been under-spending on its capital needs the last 10 years," he said. "It's at a point where we have to catch up."

The presentation showed a long-term capital funding strategy which would allow the town to pay off important debt in 2015.

The plan, which was created by the Capital Funding Committee, would also develop an account for other capital needs.

According to Woodard, the town's capital budget covers the purchase of capital equipment for buildings and building improvements, for example. But any purchase requires taxpayer approval.

The exception would be for small items purchased out of the $300,000 capital budget within the operating budget.

Woodard said the Committee is urging use of free cash to pay for vehicles, facilities and part of the technology upgrades at Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School in FY15. The total cash amount would be just shy of $1.5 million.

"Let’s try to avoid debt other than for large projects," Woodard said. "In the past we've been so tight for money because of leasing vehicles. We need to get out of that."

The presentation also explained how capital funding for the proposed new Sudbury police headquarters would begin in FY16, while funding for upgrades for Town Hall and the Fairbank Community Center would start in FY18.

Funding for the Route 20 sewer project wouldn't begin until FY19.

According to documents supplied by Woodard, the average tax bill in Sudbury would increase by almost $800 in FY15 and almost doubled that in FY29.

Those projects, combined with projected regular capital needs, are expected to increase the capital spending impact on the average tax bill from just under $800 in fiscal 2015 to close to $1,500 by fiscal 2020. 

"I appreciate the idea of maintaining evenness in the tax bill so that it doesn’t bump up and down and people don’t have to jostle," Selectman Len Simon said. "We're looking for predictability, and this goes a long way toward that end. We're looking to preserve the town’s bonding ability. This is a very smart idea and the way to go. I think it’s a very solid, thoughtful plan."

Woodard's presentation can be found on The Town of Sudbury website.

pmotw January 17, 2014 at 11:33 AM
How can anyone consider any of these new projects when the town does not have an effective plan to cover the unfunded OPEB liability which was at $74,000,000.00 one year ago. Posted one year ago by Mr. Woodard http://sudbury.patch.com/groups/charles-woodards-blog/p/bp--what-is-opeb-and-why-should-we-care-part-1 http://sudbury.patch.com/groups/charles-woodards-blog/p/bp--what-is-opeb-and-why-should-we-care-part-2
Sudburytoo January 17, 2014 at 11:39 AM
With all the overrides Sudbury has had and the excessive taxes in Sudbury the Board of Selectmen are claiming we "need to catch up". You have got to be kidding me. Sudbury has a HUGE out of control spending problem. Don't spend what you don't have. End of story.
Charles Woodard January 17, 2014 at 05:42 PM
A plan to address the unfunded retiree healthcare liability (OPEB) is also on the list of Selectmen's goals and will also be addressed in 2014. None of the projected capital spending is a foregone conclusion. I presented a funding plan, not a spending plan. Unlike the operating budget, almost all capital spending has to be approved by the taxpayers rather than just the year to year change. There is no ongoing capital budget other than a small line item in the operating budget. The point of the exercise was to look at the projected capital needs and come up with a funding policy to deal with them that avoids large swings in the impact on taxes. The alternative was to proceed without a plan and simply wait to see what happens. The actual spending, and therefore the actual impact, will be driven by the annual recommendation of the Capital Investment Advisory Committee (the unpaid resident volunteers who review and recommend, or not, every capital request), the FinCom, and the BOS, and then be subject to taxpayer approval. One correction to the projected tax impact numbers cited in the article above: the impact of capital spending, including debt service, in the FY14 budget on the average tax bill was $1,058. Excluding the Town Hall, Fairbank, and Sewer projects, all of which are still in discussion and subject to further due diligence by citizen volunteer committees, and each of which if approved would represent a major new investment by the town, the capital spending impact of everything else on the average tax bill peeks at $961 in FY20. Including all of those items it peaks at $1,485 in FY20. All of this is in today's dollars since the costing of all projects was in today's dollars. We only projected out to FY24.
Jamon January 18, 2014 at 07:27 PM
I don’t see how a totally unnecessary community center constitutes “under-spending” of capital. I thought that we increased the selectmen to improve accountability. Instead, it seems like more guys are competing to get more pet projects, wasting taxpayer money. Worse, they back eachother’s pet projects, scratching eachother’s backs, so that their personal pet project gets support. Wow, the waste of taxpayer money never ends. Sudbury’s taxes are among the highest in the state, approx 30% higher (some argue 40%) than comparable towns, no matter what metric is used. We have two bloated school bureaucracies and LS teachers teaching 4 courses rather than 5 (unlike every other town in the state with one school system and 5 courses), among other excessive overspending causes, wasting millions annually. We voted for the new LS building hoping that debt service would decrease over time and lessen the tax burden. Instead, an onslaught of projects, almost all unnecessary, keeps coming, guaranteeing Sudbury’s place at or near the top of highest taxed towns in the state. Home prices are stagnant here because everyone knows taxes are out of control. Buyers can get the same environment in other towns for 30-40% less in taxes. Let’s summarize a few issues: Police Station: only 5 people work there at a time -why need a palace for these 5 people? Nest feathering, of course. A modest renovation is all that is necessary. New bathrooms (for 5 people?), expansion- all permit issues can be waived by town controlled boards – this is seriously not a problem. Why did they move fire dispatch to the police station instead of the abundantly proportioned fire dept HQ? We don't need new and expensive lockup. For the handful of annual prisoners, we can use existing facilities or other lockup facilities in towns only a few miles away at a fraction of the cost. Lecture hall for 40 people? Come on! Meeting space goes begging in town, and a police dept meeting that needs large space happens very infrequently. Further, why is the sale of the current station not in the projections to diminish the new station cost? A prime Route 20 property could sell for seven figures, and dramatically reduce taxpayer burden. If the building is so small and such an abomination (though hard to imagine that this building is too small for the handful of people there each day- in fact, it is TOO LARGE for the few people who are there each day), why would the town keep it? Town Hall: 9 million to renovate? Seriously? We are now adding insult to injury spending more money on offices for a school system which, as I mentioned, wastes millions per year in duplicate administrative costs- two supers, asst supers, assts to assts, etc. Community Center? You have to be kidding! There are so many places to meet in town – yet another example of selectmen wasting millions on pet projects. More ways they plan to double our taxes soon: The annual school override, LS roof (how is this possible already? who approves a contract for a commercial roof that lasts only a few years?), Sherman’s bridge, Pension shortfall (why have no revisions been made to this, and part timers get pension benefits?), sewer project- I thought this highly questionable endeavor was self- funding? I guess not now. The list goes on and on as new items constantly come up. It will never, ever, end. They hope taxpayers will be asleep in any given year and fail to vote unnecessary projects down. For example, they approved police station plans for $600,000 when the building itself was not approved! This has to stop, and more reasonable expenditures, which are easily available at a fraction of proposed costs, must be offered to address issues and eliminate unnecessary projects.
SudburyCOP January 21, 2014 at 06:42 PM
Well said Don H. Woodward wants 40b, Simon wants his precious rail trail, Larry just wants to eat and drink at Lavender. Lord knows about Drobinski. This town is a mess.

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