Marion's Town Warrant and future financial situation

Apr 24, 2017

To the Editor:

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 ten 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 then 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 admistrative realignment.

Marion’s current, forecasted and unfunded liabilities, obligations, commitments and capital spending is 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 $40 million worth of debt; 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 fund raising.

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 waste water 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.

Expect to soon 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 up dated as new information is received for our Town’s dynamic financial environment.

 

 

Ted North

Marion

 

Comments (2)
Posted by: Robert Raymond | Apr 25, 2017 13:38

Ted - The Town House Renovation project has been value engineered down to $7.9 Million and is not on the warrant for construction funding this year. Please stop talking about $28M and $12M plans. Those are old news and inaccurate. 

What is on the warrant is a request to fund a limited study of building a new town administration building on the VFW site so voters will have accurate information upon which to make decisions at a later date.  Thanks as always for your commendable civic engagement.  

Bob Raymond

Town House Building Committee



Posted by: Ted North | Apr 27, 2017 10:42

Bob, thank you for taking time to respond to my public comments on Marion’s future financial situation. The issue is the magnitude of the numbers in the forecast. Forecasts are dynamic and change as new information is received. New forecasts always seem to trend up too.

The second issue is the special interest groups such as the Town House Committee (THC) looking for taxpayers to support projects that should be undertaken with private money such as historical restoration. Using taxpayer money to support special interest projects is endemic to the Marion community.

As you know there is a second special interest group looking to use tri- town taxpayer money to build an Olympic style sports complex at ORR not withstanding $23,000,000 in future tri-town taxpayer obligations for projected unfunded retirement obligations and a future $1,000,000 roof replacement.

Soon the Energy Management Committee special interest group will be looking for about $100,000 in taxpayer money for continuance of its electric car project. There will be additional future request to finance its growing litany of other green projects to be carried on the backs of Marion taxpayers.

As for the Town House issue, new funding is being request at Town Meeting to develop a new proposal for bring Town admistrative office capital spending down considerably from the current THC recommendations. During the past fiscal year, the THC has had various proposals on the table including $28 million, $12 million now $8 million. A growing number us think the proposals are much too rich for our small taxpayer base to carry.

You take umbrage with my $12 million TH number. I will stand by this number as the THC consistently fails to include in its project forecasts the considerable costs of debt financing and cost of issuance.

The EPA has issued the waste water discharge permit available on the Town web site. It’s a five-year permit with bench mark mandatory capital spending compliance requirements to be completed over a four-year period. This all competes with a discretionary Town Administration office project. Ted North Marion



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