ESSEX — If the Finance Committee's payment plan for the new public safety building is approved by Special Town Meeting, it will mean the owner of the average Essex home will pay an average of $390.18 per year over a 30-year period for the project.

"The impact of the debt will be a bit higher at $500 in the first year," said Finance Committee Chairman Benjamin Buttrick, "but declines over time."

The Finance Committee presented its finalized payment plan to selectmen and the Town Building Committee at a meeting. Both groups endorsed the plan.

The town will borrow $15.5 million for the estimated $17.5 million cost for the project. Property taxes will increase by 4.44 percent for Essex's average single-family home, with an assessed property value of $571,264.

Contingent to this borrowing plan is the use of town money. Finance Committee members believed it prudent to use $2 million from the $6.8 million available in the town's sale of real estate fund and $1 million in free cash left over from last fiscal year's budget.

One other scenario was discussed at the Wednesday meeting — using $3 million of real estate fund money with the borrowing stretched out over 40 years. It was rejected for multiple reasons, the first of which was the extra $3 million of interest tacked on to 10 years more years of borrowing. Second, borrowing too much from town funds could have a negative effect on the town's bond rating. Lastly, a longer payment option could delay the town's next big project, a new Essex Elementary School building. The debt for the Manchester-Essex Regional School District's Middle/High School in Manchester will be retired around 2033.  

"(The Essex Finance Committee) carefully evaluated many different financing scenarios with the goal of recommending one that balances minimizing impact on taxpayers, maintaining the fiscal health of the town, and keeping more than half of the cash balance from (the sale of real estate funds) available for future town needs," Buttrick said.

At May's town election, voters approved using an override of tax-limiting Proposition 2 1/2  to pay for the project.

Those who wish to learn more about the Essex public safety building project are welcome to attend a public hearing on Thursday, Sept. 12, and Tuesday, Sept. 17, at 7 p.m., in the third-floor auditorium at Town Hall, 30 Martin St. The two meetings will be identical in content and it is not required to attend both.

The Special Town Meeting will follow on Monday, Sept. 23, at 7:30 p.m., in the gym at Essex Elementary School, 12 Story St. If the single question on the warrant is approved, construction on the new public safety building is scheduled to begin in November. 

Michael Cronin may be contacted at 978-675-2708, or mcronin@gloucestertimes.com.

IF YOU GO

What: Essex Special Town Meeting will consider approving raising money to build a new combined police and fire station at 11 John Wise Ave. and 0 Spring St.

When: Monday, Sept. 23, at 7:30 p.m.

Where:  Essex Elementary School gym, 12 Story St.

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