Vote to move Town Hall postponed to Nov. 5
Last week, Marlborough town attorney Ron Blass submitted resolutions to the Town Board setting forth the parameters of a special referendum election scheduled for Aug. 13 when voters were to decide on a proposal to move the town government offices, the Police Department and the Town Justice Court to the now-closed Milton School and to expend up to $350,000 in the process.
At a special meeting on Monday evening the board was prepared to correct the polling times to 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and pass a new resolution, but, additional questions arose on whether absentee voters would be disenfranchised in the process due to required deadline constraints, the advertising for the vote, the registration of unregistered voters and scheduled vacations in the town clerk’s office.
Councilman Dr. Anthony Pascale said what appeared to be on the minds of the Town Council.
“It would seem to be a very serious miscarriage of democracy if we were not allowing people [to vote],” he said.
Supervisor Stephen Osborn agreed.
“It would be better to have absentee ballots taken than not taken, but if we’re going to finish the process we’ve begun, then its not going to happen,” he said. “If we want to scrap that and go to a November election, that’s fine with me also.”
In the end, the board did not approve the new resolution but instead decided they will vote for a mandatory referendum so that the matter will go onto the November ballot. This also saves the town $8,000 they would have had to spend if the special election in August went forward.
The board indicated that the Nov. 5 ballot will contain the original proposal on the move and the associated $350,000 costs and the lease agreement with the school district. In addition, the board indicated it will put another option on the ballot in November; asking voters to approve bonding for a Town Hall facility, either new or renovated, with a total and details to be hammered out in the next few weeks. If this last option is approved, the board indicated they could add an additional $1 million from a reserve fund to the project. With new construction costs hitting $200 per square foot, a 15,000-square-foot building will cost approximately $3 million.
In recent weeks, Councilman Scott Corcoran has been speaking in favor of the move and has offered figures on what the estimated costs of the renovations/move will be, calculations he has been working on for more than a year.
In the beginning stages of discussions, Corcoran said the board considered several locations for the town facilities; the Presbyterian Church on West Street; the site next to True Value hardware store; the Highway Department to the transfer station on Baileys Gap Road; the TOMVAC building on Route 9W and staying where they are and making significant renovations to the current building or constructing a completely new complex at the site. He made note that Philip Bell, of Bell Engineering, has previously compiled seven possible scenarios and associated costs for the board’s consideration: Moving town government offices to TOMVAC with renovations made to the present site for Police, Courts and the Highway Department for $3.5 million; Constructing a new 10,000-square-foot building for town government offices and expanding and renovating the existing Town Hall building for Police and Courts at a cost of $4 million; or what has been dubbed the “Cadillac solution” of spending $6.8 million for a new town hall building on the present site, construction of a new Highway Department building at the transfer station and doing renovations in the present town hall structure.
Corcoran summed up the key parameters on the present Town Hall site, which has 1,860 square feet of space for town offices; 722 square feet for the Police Department; 860 square feet for the Town Court and 172 square feet for court offices for a total of 3,614 square feet. [The Highway Department occupies an additional 7,693 square feet in the building.]
Corcoran said the Milton School would allow for town offices of 3,200 square feet; the Police with 2,100 square feet and the courts with 3,200 square feet for a total of 8,500 square feet – an increase of 4,866 square feet above that of the present Town Hall building.
Corcoran explained how the town can amass $3.5 million without impacting the taxpayers: if sold, the TOMVAC building could bring in $500,000 or if leased for 10 years, collecting rent and taxes, would net $502,800; figures some have criticized as overly optimistic, saying that the present poor conditions in the housing/commercial marketplace makes these estimates overly optimistic, if not unrealistic.
Corcoran also indicated that the town can begin a savings plan that could net $2 million in 10 years, as they will retire a $370,000 road bond that will be coming off budget in 2014.
In summary, Corcoran laid out a possible scenario: $1,000,000 already in a capital fund
+ 502,800 from TOMVAC
+2,000,000 from Savings
Subtracting $300,000 for the move to Milton School leaves $3,202,800 in 10 years for a future capital project. At the end of a second 10-year period, the town may be able to realize a total of $5,705,600. This money could be used to build a town hall while the offices are located at the Milton School.
Corcoran calculated the option of bonding for a town hall: On $4 million, with a bond rate of 3.1 percent, the first year’s payment would be $545,000; broken out at $400,000 for principal and $145,000 in interest. He stated this would equate to a 3.21 percent tax rate increase and a 5.98 percent tax levy increase barring any other budget increases, no assessment changes and using the expired $370,000 road bond in full. In dollar terms, a taxpayer owning a $200,000 home would see a tax increase of $46, while someone living in a $500,000 home would pay an additional $115 per year.
Corcoran pointed out that if the town were to approve a $5 million town hall project, in 10 years they would have paid $6,094,969, adjusting for a 2 percent per annum inflation rate.
Corcoran highlighted key school district expenses: On Dec. 13, 2006, they bonded out for all of the elementary school projects for a total of $33,272,500. This bond payment will end in the 2027-2028 school year.
The Total Milton Elementary School Project cost was $4,656,492 (principal amount only) that is included in the bond that was taken in 2006.
The total state aid that will be received for the Milton School is $3,452,730 (includes principal and interest). This aid will be paid out over the first 15 years of the bond.
On an annual basis the district receives $230,182 in state building aid (principal and interest) for the Milton School over the first 15 years of the bond debt payment and annually the school district makes a bond payment of $305,196 (principle and interest) for the Milton School.
The annual bond payment on the first 15 years for the Milton School is $75,014 from taxpayers and $230,182 from state aid. For the remaining years the taxpayer will make the full payment of $305,196 per year.
Corcoran stated there will be a 10 year agreement between the town and the school district, with the option by the town for a second 10-year agreement, to utilize 8,500 square feet of the Milton School.
The town’s cost to lease the space will be to pay the town’s share of the utility bills and the salaries of the school police officer and the traffic enforcement officer with no additional money paid as a lease payment.
The moving and renovation cost range is from $292,000 to $345,000.
The town has 30 months (2 ½ years) to move out of the Milton School if the school district needs the building back or if they decide to sell the building.
If the school district breaks the agreement in the first 5 years, the town will be reimbursed at a pro-rated rate for the total moving and the renovation costs. If the school district breaks the agreement after 5 years up to the end of the 10th year, the Town will be reimbursed at a pro-rated rate for only the heating and air conditioning costs.
The school district will provide the town with custodial plus ordinary maintenance service.
On the cost/revenue side of the proposal, Corcoran stated that the TOMVAC rent of $46,410 per year totals $464,100 in 10 years.
A shared service savings between the town and the school district will net $92,000 per year or $920,000 in 10 years.
A lease or sale of TOMVAC will produce $16,620 in tax revenue; school taxes of $10,800 per year or $108,000 in 10 years and town taxes of $3,870 per year or $38,700 in 10 years.
In addition, Ulster County taxes of $1,950 per year or $19,500 in 10 years will be realized.
Corcoran calculated the total amount in savings and revenues will be $155,030 per year or $1,550,300 in 10 years.
By MARK REYNOLDS