To The Editor:
On Tuesday, September 9, Waitsfield voters will get another opportunity to express their opinions on the town's proposal to issue a $7,590,000 bond, which if approved, will be used to fund a project to supply water to homes and businesses located along Route 100.
According to the town's web site, there are somewhere around 150 properties that will benefit directly from this project.
That seems like an awfully large investment, about $50,000 per property in the service area.
Understand that the town has already spent $1.1 million on engineering fees and other costs associated with planning this project. But this expenditure is not an argument for passing this bond issue now, or at any other time. Even if we recognize that close to $3.6 million in grants could be available to the town, if the bond passes, that still means that the town's taxpayers will be on the hook for almost $4 million. The portion of the bond not covered by grants will have to be repaid by the town, as will any loans that the town may have to take out to complete the project.
Our tax dollars will be making those payments.
When the town presented this at Town Meeting, it failed, largely because voters were reluctant to commit to such a large expenditure at that time. They voted the same way in June when it was brought up then for consideration. Has anything really changed between March and September that would make a bond issue in excess of $7.5 million a good idea for the town to undertake at this time?
This wasn't realistic fiscal policy six months ago and it's not a practical program today either.
Editor's Note: The $3.6 million in USDA grants/loans that are available for this project specifically prohibit repayment by the entire town and rather, require that only users pay the debt service on the project. There are potentially 400 users (equivalent residential units) in the town. If all 400 hook up, the estimated annual debt service costs would be $470 per user, according to the town's website. If half that number of users hook up, presumably the annual debt service costs would double to $940. Those costs will accrue to users only, not taxpayers who do not use the system.