Sunderland voters approve bond proposal

Wednesday March 6, 2013

SUNDERLAND -- Voters approved a $351,000 bond proposal Tuesday designed to pay for a new town office building by a 125 to 79 margin.

The total cost of the new town hall is estimated to be about $511,000, but the town has already stashed about $159,000 into a fund over several years. The new facility will be constructed on property the town owns on Sunderland hill road, a short distance from the municipal garage.

Monday’s floor meeting was dominated by a discussion of the design of the building, which the roughly 70 residents attending the annual town meeting at Sunderland elementary School approved after a nearly hour-long discussion.

"We proposed what’s needed to fulfill the needs of the town for the next 50 years, to put us in a better position than where we are now," said John Williams, a resident who had served as the chairman of the town’s building committee and was now the bonding liaison officer to the select board, after the nearly hour-long discussion on the proposed design. "The design is simple but classic and we tried to keep the costs down."

The regular floor meeting -- during which residents also approved all the other special articles on the ballot -- was followed by a special meeting where the mechanics of the bond proposal were explained by Williams, who walked the voters through the way the bond would work if approved and how much it would cost.

The bond would be bundled into other similar municipal bonds by the state bond bank, an agency that clears and manages them. Assuming an audit of the towns finances is successful, and a 30 day appeal window passes without a request for reconsideration, the bond bank will take it to market and the town could have that revenue in hand by the end of this July, he said. But since $159,000 is already in hand, some of the preliminary work on bidding could start sooner, he said.

The bond will be amortized over a 20 year period and its annual cost will gradually decline. Interest rates are at near historical low, making this a good time to go to the bond market, he said.

"It’s never been cheaper to bond a project," he said. The owner of a property assessed at $200,000 -- the median property value in the town -- would see an increase of $25 in their tax bill, according to a document distributed at the meeting.

After the special informational meeting on the bond, it was the turnof the town’s school directors, who took questions on the proposed $2.2 million school budget. The budget was passed 161-43 during Tuesday’s voting.

Voters queried school directors on a couple of the special articles during the floor meeting, especially over a proposed $150,000 building and grounds improvement reserve fund. The money is needed to pay for improvements to the school’s garage, new carpets and upgrades to bathrooms and the school’s kitchen, said Gordon Woodrow, the

chairman of the school board. In the end, the money was approved, as well as $50,000 for three other funds. The additional $200,000 will be paid for from the school district’s Impact Aid fund -- money accrued from the federal government for town property that’s part of a federal wilderness area and undevelopable -- and won’t affect the education tax rate. Overall, the school district budget represented at 2.2 percent decrease from the previous year, according to the town report.

Voters also passed the town’s General fund budget of $191,945, by a 181-21 margin, as well as the $311,281 Highway Budget, 175-27. Mark Hyde, the current chairman of the town’s select board, was re-elected to a 3-year term, as was select board member James Ennis to another 1-year term, Newcomer David Kiernan won election to a 1 year term on the select board, replacing outgoing Judy Edmonds, who chose not to run. School directors Gordon Woodrow (3-year term) and Heidi French (2-year term) were also re-elected, as was Town and School District Moderator Sally Ayrey. Rose Keough, the town clerk, school district treasurer and town treasurer, was re-elected to all three posts.


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