DANVERS — Monday’s Annual Town Meeting will decide on three projects that, combined, would require borrowing more than $14 million.
Town Manager Wayne Marquis says he is confident that Danvers can handle the debt without busting the budget or putting the renovation of Smith School in jeopardy.
“The short answer is ‘no,’” Marquis said when asked if the borrowing would require an override of Proposition 21/2 levy limits. The town has never passed an override. “The reason why is we have carefully planned out our debt.”
The big-ticket items on tap for Town Meeting are the $6.5 million upgrade of the high school’s athletic fields (Article 18); a new, $5.5 million dispatch center at the police station (Article 19); and the $2.1 million replacement of a failed boiler at the library, along with upgrades of the heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems (Article 21).
The Finance Committee recommends borrowing to pay for all three projects.
The question is whether the town can afford these projects and borrow to pay for the renovations of the Smith School on Lobao Drive in the coming years without saddling the town budget with too much debt.
The town is applying for state funding to fix Smith School this year, but even if the project were approved, the study, design, bidding and construction would take several years, so the town would not feel the debt impact until fiscal 2020, Marquis said.
Marquis said forecasts show the town’s debt declining in four years just at the time it would have to start paying off a major portion of a Smith School project. Forecasts keep the town’s debt at 5 percent of the $104 million budget.
Marquis said his estimates are conservative, not taking into account any additional money for the projects such as a state 911 grant, private donations to rebuild the high school’s fields and contributions from National Grid to convert the library’s heating system from oil to natural gas. Marquis did not assume another community would join a Danvers dispatch center to help pay for it.