Shelburne voters cast ballots on Tuesday with a single oval to fill on whether to bond for up to $6.5 million to build a new Pierson Library, renovate the historic Town Hall, and make improvements to the Town Center campus for access and safety.
Polls will be open at the gymnasium at the town offices from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Early voting on the measure has been popular. Town Clerk Diana Vachon said early this week that she had sent out 427 early ballots and so far, and 318 had been returned. A typical Town Meeting Day election sees about 500 early ballots cast, she said. Voters may fill out a ballot early through Monday, Nov. 6, between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. at the clerk’s office.
Early interest may be due in part to the effort by the Library Building Steering Committee overseeing the project proposal in recent weeks to meet with townspeople at the farmer’s market, informal gatherings at coffee shops, and elsewhere with the project model and materials to explain the proposal and answer questions.
Of high interest is how much the project will add to property tax bills. Town Manager Joe Colangelo said the highest estimate is about $35 per year for every $100,000 of property value. That’s assuming the current interest rate on a 20-year bond. A longer loan period would lower the annual payment, but extend it and ultimately mean a costlier loan; that choice will be made when the actual bond is prepared.
That figure also assumes the bond is for the full amount. Should the project receive significant donations and/or grant funds, the loan and the impact on taxes would be less. That prospect is real given the recent pledge from an anonymous donor to contribute $50,000 and match up to $450,000 in donations from others in the community.
Questions have arisen about other municipal expenses and the combined impact on the tax rate that property owners can expect. Colangelo noted that the bond for recent school renovations is already calculated in the current tax rate of $1.8633 of which the education portion is $1.4748.
Bonds for water and sewer work are not part of the tax rate, but are built into the rates customers pay, he explained. A recent bond of just under $1 million for the new firetruck for will add $6 to the tax bill per $100,000 property value starting with the 2018-19 tax year, Colangelo said. Other long-term expenses phase out in five years which could, in turn, bring a substantial drop in the tax rate.
If voters approve the bond on Tuesday, the town is ready to move ahead on the project having already chosen a construction contractor. Neagley & Chase Construction
Company of South Burlington was picked this summer for construction management and the ultimate construction once the financing is in place.
Colangelo said the timeline for the project calls for work to begin in April and be completed a year later. The library will continue to provide some but possibly not all services during construction, Colangelo said.
The town is looking for temporary space to house the library. “If the bond passes that will become a primary focus,” Colangelo said. “Without a doubt we will continue offering library services during construction.”