Saturday, March 17, 2012

So what’s the betting line in Perfect, LT Ben?

Some years ago, we wrote an op-ed talking about Brunswick not being the town of “Perfect,” which at that point was the theme of a series of television commercials.  We’re reminded of that concept anew, because Brunswick is showing signs of trying to become Perfect once more.

Here we live in a country and state experiencing what many call “The Great Recession,” which has been going on for 3 to 4 years, give or take.  Employment sucks, if you’ll pardon us, with millions fewer working than just a few years ago.  Spending beyond our means and borrowing with no concern for the effects on our future is the ‘new normal.’  And Maine and Brunswick continue to live in a demographic winter.

Here in Brunswick, our lot is exacerbated by the closure of the Naval Air Station, a major economic factor in the region for more than half a century.  No matter, things couldn’t look rosier locally, what with trains a-coming, the base a-booming, and all sorts of other economic boomlets under way.

Consider that as things stand, in the span of a mere ten years, we will have built a new school, two new fire stations, a new police station, and traded for a nearly new ‘town hall.’  Not bad for ‘the worst economy since the Great Depression,’ and a dazzling spree that should show those upstarts across the green bridge just who the local big dog is.

Thank goodness for adjustable rate property taxes, which can be boosted up annually as conditions warrant, even if the increases catch you by surprise.  In the mortgage world, such practices are seen as predatory, and blamed for much of the foreclosure epidemic in recent years. 

Fortunately, in the town of ‘Perfect,’ if you’re a school department or municipal government official, adjusting tax rates upward annually is not considered predatory in the least, but instead makes you protectors of community pride and all that makes Brunswick the magnet that it is, and the envy of all.  Why it’s almost as if the higher the tax rate, the better!

And so, in the interest of softening the blow a bit, we think it’s time to take a look at what the future may hold for increasing those property tax payments of yours.  We expect you won’t be hearing much in the way of straight talk from our ‘tax brokers’ anytime soon, so it’s the least we can do for you, in case, as some have suggested, you think it’s time to move elsewhere.  All you’re going to hear is the broken record about ‘the end of Brunswick as we know it’ if you don’t fork it over, pally.

So here we go.

School Side

All the little budget ducks seem to be lining up for a budget proposal that requires at least an 8% increase in property taxes this year alone. This would cover the cataclysmic ‘revenue short falls,’ and the ‘costs beyond our control,’ otherwise known as a new teachers contract. 

And don’t you dare suggest that enrollment declines since base closure should reduce operating costs. Doing so will prove you don’t care about the children, and that you’re trying to put every realtor in the area in the poorhouse.  Not to mention that local medical providers will be overwhelmed with a sudden plague of the vapors.

The School Department has already paid some dandy consultants what must be $2,000 or so a day to come up with PowerPoint slides proving we need to spend $11 million on absolutely critical facilities needs.  Including repairs to Jordan Acres School, that ‘open classroom’ blunder foisted on us by ‘experts’ years ago as the next great education breakthrough.

Any practiced observer of how such things work knows that this is just the opening bid, and that further study will show that JA can’t be suitably renovated, and needs to be replaced.  And quickly, because thousands are waiting outside town limits to move in and enjoy the Perfect town. 

So you better make that more like $21 million in capital improvements for our school system, at least for now.

There are many variables involved in how much this will cost you in taxes, but a 5-6% increase seems about right at the moment.

Then there’s the public ‘demands’ for Pre-K and free baby-sitting, I mean Pre-School.  The push has been there for years; it’s only a matter of time, or you’ll never be able to sell your house.  One could write the script for the drama now with no trouble at all.  This will have facility consequences, of course, and operating costs.  We’ll swag the range at $2-3 million per year, or another 7-10% on your property tax bill.

Adding up these major effects, we’re looking at a 20-25% increase in property taxes on the School Side in the near term, to be followed, of course, by annual increases to that baseline of 2-4% just because.

But don’t worry about it; a nice serious chat with your employer, or your clients, or your investment counselor, or your Social Security advisor should allow you to adjust your income to the new demands placed upon you by those who care more than you do.

Municipal Side

So many possibilities here; where do we begin?  We’ll more or less ignore the need for modest increases year by year to cover the increases in salaries, etc.  At least for now.

It’s more fun to ponder the big hitters.  Start with adapting the McClellan Building for Town Office use.  That can’t possibly be less than $2-3 Million, after a $250,000 or so study to figure out what to do and make the air tight case for doing so.

The new Police Station is currently estimated at $5.3 million, but if things go as they usually do, it will end up at $7.0 million or so.  Think they’ll be able to get by with the new 22,000 square feet digs, 6 to 7 times what they have now?  That’s only the equivalent of ten or so nice houses in the Meadowbrook area.

Of course we’ll have to make disposition of the old Municipal Building: raze it, upgrade it for sale, or otherwise ‘repurpose it.’  We can’t just let it sit there.  Figure $1 million or more with remediation.  Maybe lots more.

We’ve still got to build that new Main Fire Station; first, where will it go?  Figure $6 to $8 million when it’s done.  Then we’ll have to make disposition of the old fire station and its property.  Just like the current Municipal Building, only much worse because of age and safety issues.  $1 million minimum, unknown maximum.

And what are we gonna do about the old TR building?  We can’t just let it sit there, can we?

So; total is $15-20 million or more in major capital outlays, which one way or another, translates to at least another 5-6% tax rate increase in the near term.

The Bottom Line

Summing up, it’s not out of the question to anticipate a 25-30% near term change in your adjustable rate taxes.  But let your hearts be still; as you write those bigger checks, you’ll be swelling with pride, and you won’t feel a thing.  And you can trust us on this; we’re not like all the others.

You might question our figures; be our guest.  At least we’ve given you something to base your thinking on.  And if you believe we’re way off the mark, why don’t you try to get appropriate town officials to publicly state that such expenditures are absolutely not going to happen?

Just in case you do have any worries, though, remember that unless we do these things, no one will ever, ever move to Brunswick any more.  Our exploding population will flock to the developments going up in nearby communities, which will suddenly be deemed to have schools better than ours.  And they’ll hide their faces in shame as they leave.

Try to remember that we have more than enough kind souls willing to pay more in taxes if we do all the above.  We know, we’ve watched them say so for years.  So what if we can never seem to find their names or addresses after their brave public statements; they wouldn’t mislead us, would they?

Lastly, if you don’t like it you can lump it.  Remember, one of our domestic tranquility counselors last year said seniors should move out of town if they don’t like the increases.  So to be clear, you owe a generous increase in your personal tribute to those who want the best for themselves, no matter what it does to our collective future.

Or yours in particular, you selfish bastard you.

1 comment:

  1. The Bible says the Lord spoke "and ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free" and they slew him. The politicians tell you lies and the lies enslave you and we reward them. There is something wrong with this scenario.