Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Funding Capital Needs

The following article was submitted by Mark Gold,
current member of the Longmeadow Select Board to the Longmeadow Buzz blog and Longmeadow News for publication this week.

Longmeadow’s Town meeting was held last week – and the proceedings of that meeting are reported elsewhere in this newspaper.   From the front of the room, the vista was amazingly positive; hundreds of town residents had come out of their homes on a beautiful spring evening to perform the duties of the legislative branch of town government.  At the meeting, as part of the continued discussion on renewing the infrastructure of the town, citizens approved over $5,000,000 in funding for capital expenditures, authorizing the use of funds from the operating budget, stabilization funds, and the issuance of bonds to begin work on the backlog of over $140 million in capital projects that have been identified for our roads, sidewalks, storm water outfalls, drinking water, and sewage systems.   $2,200,000 of these expended funds is derived from water and sewer fees or designated state aid, but $2.8 million is primarily paid through property taxes.  If we are to continue to maintain the town’s infrastructure, as we must, and continue to support the operations of the town’s general government services and schools as we want, we must find a way to fund capital improvements that provides the necessary millions of dollars in needed financing while continuing to provide funds for general government and school operations.   I believe that this balanced approach to funding both capital and operating expenses can be met.

Beginning when I was chair, the capital planning committee has recommended each year that that capital funds be increased above their current level of 2% of property tax revenue.  For the past two years, the Finance Committee has echoed that request.  By ramping up Longmeadow’s commitment to capital from 2% to 2.5% over five years, and dedicating those increases to capital improvement bonds, Longmeadow can make available approximately $4.5 million of additionally needed funds to address the most pressing of our capital needs (see chart below).   This gradual increase in the capital allocation would require only $50,000 of each year’s allowable increase under the Proposition 2 ½ levy limit, leaving over $1.1 million in increased revenue to support the growth of the overall town budget and, equally as important, not impact the funds available to purchase plows, equipment and other non- infrastructure capital needs.  Our infrastructure was built over many decades and this balanced approach provides the added funds to begin to address these needs without having to make unacceptable cuts to the town’s operating budget.

click chart to enlarge
This proposed approach to funding our infrastructure needs mirrors the structure adopted by the Town for funding new fire trucks.  Prior to the creation of our fire truck replacement fund, the purchase of a fire truck was a major expenditure that required offsetting cuts elsewhere in either the operating budget (to pay for a bond) or the capital budget (precluding the purchase of other capital items).   In place since I recommended it during my tenure as chair of the capital planning committee, an annual payment into the fire truck fund has been integrated into Longmeadow’s capital plan, and has provided funds to pay for two new fire vehicles with minimal impact on either operating budgets or other capital expenditures.

Longmeadow’s capital infrastructure needs must be addressed.  By gradually increasing, and allocating that increased portion of our capital budget to infrastructure repairs, the Town of Longmeadow can adopt a balanced approach to funding the capital AND operating needs of the town.  This proposal is but one of the ways in which I hope to continue to bring to the voters of Longmeadow a balanced approach to town government. 

For more information about how we can address the financial needs of the town, visit my website www.GoldForSelectboard.com.

Mark Gold

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