I was at a St. Patrick’s Day party two months ago when a very nice neighbor lady came up to me and kicked me right in the shin.
“Ouch,” I said. “What was that for?”
“You’re trying to raise my taxes!”
I was definitely confused, and hadn’t yet had enough to drink to think I’d misheard her.
“I’m on Finance Committee. I’m pretty sure I’m not trying to raise your taxes,” I replied. “What are you talking about?”
“You’re voting for that library!”
I am trying to raise your taxes. But in so doing, I’m trying to save you money. Let me tell you how that works.
To understand why voting for the $16.6 million dollar library proposal ultimately saves you money and is the fiscally responsible thing to do, you need to understand and accept three things:
- We always will have a library.
The library isn’t going anywhere. This town will always have one. This is not reasonably up for debate. There is no scenario in which we are abandoning the concept of having a library.
Despite prognostications about the death of print ten years ago, neither the iPhone nor Kindle have destroyed the public’s appetite for printed reading material. More to the point, technology hasn’t made Grafton’s library less popular. Our library services 80,000 visits per year. It’s as popular as ever.
- Our library sucks and underserves Grafton.
This also is not reasonably up for debate. The building is approaching 100 years old, was designed to service 6,000 Grafton residents, it requires an increasing amount of maintenance and it underserves the people that visit it, who somehow make 80,000 trips there.
At some point, it’s going to need to be replaced or renovated. We should do this now, because…
- It’s never going to be cheaper to do this project, which you know needs to be done.
Construction costs typically rise by about 4% per year. This also is not reasonably open to debate. Those of you in the business understand that it’s been even more expensive than that lately. The cost of labor and materials has risen precipitously since 2012.
If we get this done right now, the state is expected to chip in about 45.5% of construction costs. Because not all of the costs are reimbursable, Grafton residents will be expected to foot about $10 million dollars of the $16.6 million dollar construction cost. That amounts to, on average, $111 per household, per year.
Not doing this now is a waste of your money. If we had done this back in 2012, the project would have cost about $10 million dollars, and Grafton residents would have paid $6 million dollars. In five years, then, you’ve wasted $4 million dollars on this project for no particular reason.
If you put this off another five years, you can expect to pay at least 20% more, with no guarantee of state reimbursement. That means, in the span of ten years, you’ll have wasted at least nine or ten million dollars on a project that is inevitable.
To be sure, there are bad arguments in favor of voting for this project. Describing the cost to tax-payers as “crumbs” is one of them. It’s not crumbs. Our town recently aggressively reassessed property values to near market rates. Your taxes will go up this year with or without the library project. You’re being asked to fund a DPW facility and will fund sewer upgrades. It’s not outside the realm of possibility that my tax bill could go up by $1,000 when all is said and done a year from now, after you add in the ordinary taxes on my property, the library, the DPW and the sewers. Will I miss the $9 a month that I’ll pay for the library? No. But I’ll sure as shit miss that $1,000 out of my checking account next year.
But that’s why I’m voting for this now. Because I want to save money in the long run. Because it’s not crumbs, and every little bit you can save helps.
So, quit wasting my money and vote yes on the library.
[Monday’s Town Meeting vote only put the debt exclusion question on the ballot. If you’re supporting this project, you need to go to the polls and vote yes on Tuesday, May 16.]