Update: Feb. 10th, 2021
On July 7th 2020, the Town voted to approve the borrowing authority for the full amount of both projects, identified as two priority areas by the community during the Montgomery Thrives Initiative. As described, this was a “yellow light” from the community to advance the projects, as the affirmative bond vote acted as the mechanism for USDA Rural Development (the primary funding source for the projects) to release their funding offers to the Town.
On the Wastewater side, the Rural Development offer came in with a grant award of $6,065,000. An additional $507,000 grant from the Northern Borders Regional Commission, a $30,000 Planning grant, and $250,000 from the State of Vermont’s Clean Water Revolving Fund provides additional support. This leaves a 30-year loan at a 1.125% interest with Rural Development to cover the remaining balance of $4,948,000 (getting us to the total project cost of $11.8M). With this information in hand, we turned our attention to a feasibility analysis on the debt service to the potential $4.9M note for the system.
The full report of the analysis can be found here.
The analysis was clear: to achieve affordability, the town will need to implement two additional measures aside from projected revenue from user fees. The first is a 1% Local Option Tax on Sales, Meals, Rooms, and Alcohol. This is projected to raise approximately $35,000 annually to support debt service on the loan note. For perspective, this tax would mean an additional $0.05 on your average pint of beer, $0.15 on a burger, or an additional $1.25-$2.00 on a room at one of our Inns or B&Bs. The second is an additional $0.06 on the tax rate per $100 in assessed value as a means of broad-based community support to the project, similar to the annual town appropriation to the water system, and acknowledging that benefits to the community from the proposed system extend to beyond just those who hook into it. For a property assessed at $250,000 this would mean an additional $150 to support the system. This addition to the tax rate would sunset after thirty years, and could decrease over that term if the town sees projected growth in the Grand List associated with increased economic development from the project.
The implementation of any tax is never something to be taken, but user rates alone cannot sustain the cost of this system. The bond vote gave permission to move forward, and now armed with greater information we present to the voters a more detailed plan on how to feasibly finance the project. These two measures are intended to minimize the impact to taxpayers by bringing in additional revenue from outside the town. We now come back to you to ratify community support in advancing this project as we build for our future, focusing on a long-term vision for the town’s vitality over the next 30-50 years.
The town has continued to rely on no-risk Engineering Planning Advance funds from the state to advance the project while we determine financial feasibility. These funds are not due back should the project not advance and, therefore (as intended), limit the town’s financial exposure for the work to date on the project.
On the Streetscapes side, the USDA RD offer came in as a 30-year loan for $6,985,000 at an interest rate of 2.25%. The Town has subsequently submitted a grant application for $300,000 to assist in further planning and engineering work, but has otherwise put the project on pause while we determined the Wastewater feasibility. We expect to re-engage the community in design work this spring to further refine the elements presented in the Preliminary Engineering Study released earlier this summer. That study presented the full menu of options to determine a cost figure but will need to be refined through public input and more detailed site analysis. As to financial feasibility of the Streetscape project, we expect to submit for a federal BUILD grant to significantly reduce the potential final debt obligation and keep our eye on any infrastructure spending out of Congress, as a shovel-ready project will position us to jump on any new grant opportunity that comes our way.
- Aug. 19, 2020 – Informal Meeting
- “Vermont gets $4.4 million in northern border grants to 14 communities” (VermontBiz)
It’s official, the Town of Montgomery has been awarded $507,107 (the largest award for a Vermont based project) for the construction of the municipal wastewater system. Great job everyone who worked to get this over the line. Much more work to do, and many more dollars to secure, but a big step in the right direction.
Looking for more information on the project? View project files, an extensive Q&A section, and other public information made available ahead of the vote.