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Selectmen Vote Sewer Betterments for Phase VI and Discuss the Financial Forecast

by Muriel Kramer

November 4, 2010 — Affected property owners in Phase VI will soon receive their bills for 100% of the betterment for the Milford connection now that the project is essentially complete; according to Ray Miyares, Town Counsel, wastewater could be flowing to Milford as early as next week. Those same property owners, along with the rest of Phase VI, will also receive their estimated 50% betterment for the Fruit Street Wastewater Treatment Plant project; that plant is set to come on line in August of 2011.


The betterment bills are set to be mailed November 15th. The properties that can be serviced by Milford will share the $1.45 million dollar cost left after grants totaling $2.5 million and Lonza’s $100K contribution. EMC’s share of those costs will be just over $800K. Property owners will be able to pay the full betterment within 30 days or pay over 20 years with a 5% interest rate. Those same properties along with the rest of Phase VI properties will then share in the cost of the Fruit Street Project $10,577,082; just under $5 Million of that is EMC’s share of the cost. The bills going out later this month will be addressing 50% of the total. Some businesses have not yet been bettered the original 50% betterment, so they will be assessed the full 50% at this time; others will pay the 50% betterment less what they have already paid. Those betterments will carry a 4% interest rate if paid over time.


Selectman Michelle Gates asked about properties that will be able to utilize either Milford or Fruit Street, “Are we charging them twice?”


Miyares answered that the value of the property is enhanced (or bettered) by the available services. Even if they don’t use the service, presumably the properties won’t access Milford and Fruit Street capacity at the same time, they are able too, so they will be charged betterments for both improvements (the Milford connection and the Fruit Street Plant).


Selectman Ben Palleiko asked whether this approach was standard practice, and Miyares said that while it was a little unusual to have two different projects being undertaken at the same time; bettering the properties for the improvements is standard.


Gates followed up with a question about the properties in question being more expensive or “prime” properties; “What incentives do businesses have to stay?”


Chairman RJ Dourney answered, “There is always someplace cheaper; hopefully, there are other reasons to stay here.”


For his part, Miyares argued that the property owners were getting a “bargain”. The total cost of the Milford connection has been offset by grants and contributions, and the Fruit Street Project while not as “good a bargain” is a bargain still because of the $1.2 million in stimulus money that went to the project.


The Selectmen then discussed the financial forecast in preparation for crafting and delivering the budget message to all departments next week at their Nov 9th meeting. To start the meeting Town Manager Norman Khumalo asked Esther Driscoll of Educate Hopkinton to share her thoughts with the Board. Khumalo has been asking community groups and individuals to weigh in on the issues and challenges facing Hopkinton from a financial perspective, and specifically what do the respondents think about the community’s willingness to pay more taxes. One of the central premises going forward with the budget process as detailed at the Selectmen’s Oct 26th meeting is to raise the tax levy to the maximum allowable limit either immediately or over the next few years incrementally making up the $900K that was not charged but would have been allowed over the last two years.


Mrs. Driscoll acknowledged the difficulty raising taxes would present to many residents, but maintained that it would be more detrimental not to do so at this time. “A well maintained community with great schools requires continuous investment.” She continued that the needs of seniors and others on fixed incomes should not be ignored, but Hopkinton needs to add back that $900K to bring us back to the levy limit. She argued that there are no ideal solutions, we can either underfund the town and decrease services or “keep our belts tightened as much as possible and reinvest in the community.”


Gates asked about the projections noting that all scenarios included additional levies. “Is there a scenario without additional levies?”


In response to her question, next week’s budget discussion will have a scenario to consider that does not include additional taxes.


Making his early position known, Dourney asserted that the School Committee’s charge is to provide excellence in education, and the Selectmen’s job is to give them the funds necessary to get that done. “I am not a supporter of continuing to push the thought, how can we be creative with the school budget? Now is the time to draw the line; we don’t have people sitting around anymore eating bon bons. We need to protect the schools.”


Gates responded that she would like to hear what the Appropriation Committee has to say, and find out if they agree that Hopkinton has maxed out the budget cuts possible.


Dourney held firm on his position, “We’ve gained all the efficiencies we can gain.”


From the audience, Dr. John Duffy made the point that the Board might find it important to consider the percentage increase to the taxpayer. “In this economic climate, that should be a consideration early on.”


John Mosher expresses some frustration at the process thus far with new formats and changing variables. Continuing he made the point, “Are we now efficient enough? I don’t think we are; we can always improve.” Speaking to the issue of a new DPW facility. he asserted favoring an approach of incremental improvements. “We have to be careful how we coordinate our expenditures. The culture of efficiency takes time.”


For their meeting on Nov 9th, the Board will consider scenarios that raise the levy limit to the maximum allowed by incrementally raising the rate over a 2 year period as well as over a 5 year period with budget projections carried forward over a three year period. They will also have information on a scenario that doesn’t raise taxes.




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