Mayor: library won’t affect tax rate

  • Greenfield Public Library STAFF FILE PHOTO

  • Martin Martin

Staff Writer
Published: 1/9/2019 11:23:28 PM

GREENFIELD — A new library will have “no impact” on the tax rate, according to the latest calculations of the city’s borrowing picture by Mayor William Martin and his finance team.

Martin said Wednesday the city should feel secure in paying for a new library because his administration has identified $8.1 million in past debt authorization that won’t be needed and that can come off the books now to make room the a library construction loan.

Martin and library trustees have suggested previously that a library loan would only add to the tax burden for a few years, but Martin’s new analysis makes that fiscal impact picture rosier still.

The City Council next week will be asked to officially rescind that $8.1 million in borrowing authority, leaving him feeling “steadfast” in his enthusiasm to keep building in Greenfield.

Financial questions have been central for some councilors as consider whether to approve building a replacement library. The proposed library is estimated to cost $19.5 million, but with a state matching grant, the taxpayer cost is closer to $10.1 million. The mayor suggested the cost could be engineered down a bit, as well.

Today’s 15,300-square-foot library was built in colonial times as a home and retrofitted in 1908 as a small-town library. The proposed library would be a 26,800-square-foot, fully accessible library with more meeting spaces, bigger spaces for teens and children and adults, and larger collections of books and the latest multi-media offerings. It would be built where the current fire station stands, and the nationally historic Leavitt-Hovey House would be sold.

Martin said the money coming off the borrowing books could be replaced with the money needed to borrow for the library, leaving essentially no library-related change in the city’s tax rate.

The move would bring the city’s debt down from about $30 million to roughly $22 million. The City Council would have to approve this borrowing rescission at its meeting next week.

A majority of the money that would come off the debt is from the $7.5 million state grant for the $10 million parking garage. The city had agreed to finance the full $10 million up front, but the state money helped to make the true cost $2.5 million.

Technically, the city can borrow up to $75 million, based on the value of taxable property, which means it could reasonably borrow as much as $53 million for major projects, Martin asserted. “That’s clearly more than enough money to afford” a library, a fire station and other public infrastructure projects, like an anaerobic sewage treatment plant sludge digester, Martin said.

“This is a favorable position to be in,” Martin said.

Martin explained that based on meetings with Finance Director Liz Gilman and discussions with state officials, the city is in a good place to continue to borrow, and in fact, needs to continue to do so to maintain a good municipal credit score.

“This is not like a credit card payment,” Martin said. “We need to spend every year … not spending money is not a good idea for a municipality.”

The debt on the books that the mayor is asking for the council to rescind is: $7.5 million for the parking garage, $301,000 for Greenfield High School and up to $100,000 for the following — senior center planning, replacing a modular space at Newton School, replacing windows at the elementary schools, a water department dump truck, paint trim for the elementary school, energy upgrades to buildings and a mower.

You can reach Joshua Solomon at:

jsolomon@recorder.com

413-772-0261, ext. 264


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