Editorial: Promising developments in Orange

  • Here is what the new Fisher Hill Elementary School would look like with a three-story addition built onto its northern side. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Published: 9/13/2019 10:16:11 AM
Modified: 9/13/2019 10:15:59 AM

It would be an understatement to say the financial news coming out of Orange is a bit bleak.

With a resounding no, voters said in July they weren’t going to buy into a Proposition 2½ override that would have raised their property taxes by a collective $513,972.

So, now town officials are doing what they can to continue providing services and eliminate huge cuts to various departments by dipping into reserves. The new budget they will present voters at a Special Town Meeting scheduled Nov. 7 will depend on taking $50,000 from the assessors overlay account and $235,000 from so-called free cash.

Some cuts will have to be made as well. The elementary schools will get a lot less than they requested.

It’s like a person dipping into their savings account without any guarantee the money will be coming back.

Since 2012, costs have risen by about $605,000 each year while at the same time revenue has only increased by $231,251 per year.

Simply, Orange needs to find new sources of revenue.

So, we believe it is a smart move for the town to pursue hiring a community development director.

The town is able to afford the new director by combining the town administrator and treasurer positions, while forgoing a full-time treasurer.

The director’s role would be to secure grant money and increase economic development opportunities, especially downtown. The person will also be tasked with attracting commercial and industrial businesses to Orange.

Basically, this person would be dedicated to bringing in the money.

That makes absolute sense to us — and apparently it did to voters at the Annual Town Meeting as well. They gave their OK for the hire.

Of course, hiring a community development director will not solve the town’s financial problems overnight, but it’s definitely a positive development.

And while we are on this topic, we want to note another one: construction of a new elementary school to replace Dexter Park Innovation School. The school will be housed in a three-story addition built onto the Fisher Hill School.

Because of Dexter’s Park condition, the state will pay 80 percent of the cost, which is a great help.

As Finance Committee member Tony Leger said, with a new school, fewer parents might choose to send their children elsewhere, which would mean additional money. (Currently, the total of Orange children going out of district is 89.)

And perhaps the new school complex might attract students from outside the district.

Again, this won’t happen right away, but it’s another sign the town of Orange is heading in a new direction.


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