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Mendon Musings

Mendon's voters will be facing some hard financial choices over the next couple of years in terms ofthe Police Station, Fire Department staffing, Senior Center expansion and – of course – funding for the regional school district.

For those who did not attend last November's Special Town Meeting, we learned that – due to rising construction prices

– an additional $1.4 million is needed to finish renovating the former fire station on Main St. into a new home for the Police Department.

If that debt exclusion is not approved, the fallback is to use the $800,000 authorization to borrow money approved at the Special Town Meeting. But, paying that debt off would mean taking at least $80,000 out of the town's operational budget each year for the next 10 years to pay off that borrowing. Doing that means at least $80,000 a year would not be available to pay for town services.

Next comes the Fire Department staffing. At the various public meetings held over the past two years by the Board of Selectmen, Mendon residents made it fairly clear we want a local Fire Department with a local chief – not one run by a neighboring town.

We've now got a local chief – William Kessler – who already has done a great job in getting the Fire Department in shape. But, it will take additional operating budget funds to bring full-time staffing up to either full-time 8 a.m.-midnight coverage seven days a week or 24-hour coverage seven days a week.

Since the amount of property taxes the town can raise each year is limited by Proposition 2 1⁄2, that would most likely mean passing an operational over-ride.

For those who don't know the difference, a debt exclusion lasts only until the borrowing is paid off; an operational over- ride does not go away.

The Senior Center expansion is scheduled to come before voters at the calendar year 2020 Annual Town Meeting. The current center is half the size it should be to meet today's senior population of 1,400-plus people over the age of 60. By 2030 – as the Baby Boom generation retires – that number is expected to swell beyond 3,000 seniors.

The Council on Aging has an architectural study underway to look at expanding the current center – which can't hold more than 75 people at a time – up to holding at least 300.

By the way, the current Senior Center had an average attendance of 50 people each day in 2018.

With state-mandated prevailing wage schedules and the ever-rising cost of construction, the Senior Center project could cost at least $500 per square foot – or somewhere in the $4 million to $5 million range.

Finally, we have the Mendon-Upton Regional School District (MURSD). For the next fiscal year (Fiscal Year 2020), it is looking for a $1.9 million budget increase – which, frankly, is more than Mendon (and I'm sure Upton as well) would like to swallow.

If you figure another large increase in school funding the following year, an operational over-ride must be in the future.

Like I said, hard choices for things that all are needed.


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