Wednesday May 22, 2013

The Brattleboro Selectboard has approved a bonding plan for the town's $14.1 million police-fire facilities project.

The board members, at their regular meeting Tuesday night, agreed to borrow the money in two installments to save money over the course of the loan, and also to soften the impact on the taxpayers.

With Town Meeting Representatives agreeing to take on the project, the Selectboard had a decision on how, and when, the town should borrow the money.

Project Manager Steve Horton said the town probably only needs about $5 million to start the project this year, and so he said it made sense to borrow part of the money this year, and put off the additional borrowing until next year

The board approved a plan to borrow $5 million this year on a 15-year bond, and the additional $9.1 million which will be repaid over 20 years.

With that plan the town will save more than $561,000, compared to borrowing all of the money over 20 years, and the tax rate increase will never climb above 10 cents.

Under that plan the tax rate will increase by almost one penny and then by almost 6 cents the following year. In years three through 11 of the loan the tax rate would increase by nine and 10 cents. During the final nine years the tax rate would increase by between eight and four cents.

The board was considering three different options.

Under one scenario the town would borrow $5 million this year, and then $9.1 million the following year, with both bonds lasting 20 years.

The tax rate increase would go from 9 cents down to about 6 cents over the 20 years, but the town would end up spending more than $19 million over the 20 years.

Under an alternative plan, the town would borrow the $5 million over 10 years, and the $9.1 million over 20 years, spending about $18 million in interest and principal.

With that option the town could save more than $1 million, but it would cause a steep increase in the tax rate. The tax rate would jump by more than 10 cents for almost half of the 10-year period under that plan.

So while the town could save more money over the length of the loan, the board members did not want to make the tax rate jump by so much.

In the end the town saved about half a million dollars, and also regulated the tax rate increase somewhat.

According to Finance Director John O'Connor, the Legislature this year approved a bill that allows municipalities to bond for 30 years.

If Brattleboro decided to take out a 30 year bond on the remaining $9.1 million it would add about $2 million over the life of the loan, but it would keep the tax rate increase lower over the length of the loan.

O'Connor said the town could have that discussion when it is time to consider the next loan.

The Selectboard also discussed the approaching decision to choose an architect for the police fire project. The town has received bids from 12 architects to take on the $14.1 million project.

John Allen, who is member of the Police-Fire Facility Committee, said the committee should vet the candidates and come back to the Selectboard with a recommendation.

The board agreed to let the committee interview the candidates.

The committee is expected to interview three to five of the architects in the next few weeks and then come back to the board with recommendations.

The town hopes to have an architect in place by mid-June to begin working on detailed proposals for the police station and two fire stations.