Debt exclusion question to be featured in Mattapoisett Town Meeting, Town Election
MATTAPOISETT — The Selectmen approved a debt exclusion question of $450,000 for improvements to some of the town’s roads, to be voted on at Town Meeting and to be listed on the Town Election ballot.
That means that voters will be asked to temporarily override Proposition 2 1/2, a state law which places a 2.5% limit on property tax increases, among other provisions. If approved, the tax rate would increase for a set period of time until the town pays off the debt.
Selectman Jordan Collyer said that the town will be seeking funding through grants, so taking on debt would be “Plan B.” If the town can secure the necessary funding, the debt exclusion will not be necessary.
Town Administrator Mike Lorenco said the town would have up to 15 years to pay off the debt, costing the average Mattapoisett household about $9.65 per year.
Selectmen Paul Silva and Collyer approved the item, which would aid a project to improve Main Street, Water Street, Beacon Street and Marion Road, in the absence of Selectman John DeCosta on April 9.
The exclusion would allow the town to temporarily raise taxes by more than 2.5% in order to pay off the debt from the project. The measure would need to pass both at Town Meeting and at the ballot box for it to go into effect.
The project is part of the State Transportation Improvement Plan, a list of transportation projects eligible for state funding between 2021 and 2025.
According to the plan — which can be found by searching “STIP” on mass.gov — Mattapoisett is eligible for $8,037,971 from the state through the federal Surface Transportation Block Grant Program, a special federal aid fund.
But for that funding to come through in a timely manner, the project has to be ready for construction when it’s Mattapoisett’s turn in the improvement plan.
In order for construction on the project to begin in 2022, further funding needs to be secured by the town.
“This project needs to get to the next step,” Collyer said.
Collyer said the debt exclusion question is a backup option, if other funding sources like grants fall through.
“We’ll be in a position where we may not have to bond this at all,” Collyer said.
If the town doesn’t have funding in time, funding through the improvement plan may be diverted to projects ready for construction, delaying Mattapoisett’s project.
“And we don’t want to do that with a project of this size,” Collyer said.
Collyer said improvements to Main Street, Water Street, Beacon Street and Marion Road are already overdue. The roads are in such disrepair that Selectmen are debating making temporary fixes to some corridors, only to have the pavement torn up when the transportation improvement project begins.
The debt exclusion question will need to pass both Town Meeting and Town Election before Mattapoisett can borrow the $450,000, but Collyer said that even if the Selectmen are given the authority to bond the funds, they may not need to take out the full amount on the measure.
“We could go out and bond $200,000,” he said.
But the measure, ultimately, is one of security for the Selectmen.
“Our goal is to not use bonding at all,” Collyer said.