What is involved in Article 5?

By Jeffrey Abramson - Correspondent
January 11, 2023

Projected increases in property taxes will be a subject of debate at the Jan. 19 Special Town Meeting, when voters will be asked to approve an additional borrowing of $7,200,000  to build the proposed new Concord Middle School. 

This amount would be in addition to the $102,816,000 previously appropriated at the January 22, 2022 special town meeting.  The new CMS would replace the existing Sanborn and Peabody middle schools.

In a report mailed to Concord residents, the Finance Committee has recommended approving the additional debt, by a vote of 11 in favor, 3 against and 1 abstention.  The Select Board has also voted in favor of adoption, by a vote of 4 to 1.  If approved by 2/3 at the special town meeting, the measure will also have to be approved by a simple majority on a subsequent ballot vote.

The Finance Committee noted several factors that have pushed the costs upward.  Chief among them are rising interest rates and increases in the costs of construction material and labor.

In an effort to stay within the original cost estimates,  the Concord Middle School Building Committee (CMSBC)  used a process called “value engineering” to save $1.9 million by eliminating features not essential to its education plan. But it did not think it could stay within the original budget without cutting into educational bone. CMSBC also did not consider scaling back plans for a gymnasium and expanded auditorium.

If voters do not approve the new $7.2 million borrowing,  the Finance Committee notes that there would be significant delays in the project while CMSBC goes back to the drawing board and redesigns the project to stay within the originally allotted amount.  The Fincom was concerned that these delays might end up costing as much or more in the end, than approving the $7.1 million now.

Property taxes will be affected by the Middle School bond debt, since the costs of borrowing will be financed by overriding the 2.5 percent limit on property taxes otherwise imposed by Proposition 2½.  However, any increase in property taxes is almost entirely due to the override already voted at the January 2022 town meeting for the original debt amount of $102, 816,000.

The Finance Committee estimates that the median property will see a property tax increase from that prior vote of anywhere from $924 to $1257, depending on the amount of years money is borrowed.  By contrast, approval of an additional $7.1 million at the January 2023 special town meeting is estimated to raise the median property tax bill by about another $80.

By law, any Proposition 2½ override requires a 2/3 vote at Town meeting, and a simple majority on a subsequent ballot vote.