, Newburyport, MA

March 27, 2013

New Salisbury library faces vote at polls, Town Meeting

By Angeljean Chiaramida

---- — SALISBURY — When Salisbury voters head to the polls on April 30, they’ll decide whether the town gets its new library.

At their recent meeting, selectmen unanimously approved the debt exclusion ballot question that requests voters’ permission for the town to issue municipal bonds to pay for its portion of building a new, bigger, $7 million library on Salisbury Green.

The state has promised Salisbury a $3.8 million grant, or about 55 percent, toward the cost of building the new library. But, that promise extends to the end of this year and depends on the town coming up with the remainder, from either private or public funding.

The ballot question is the first of a two-part process needed for Salisbury to issue bonds to cover the cost of its share of the new library. Voter approval of the ballot question gives permission for Salisbury to issue bonds, according to Town Clerk Wilma McDonald.

If voters approve the question at the polls on April 30, then the second part of the process will come at May 20’s spring Town Meeting, she said. At the meeting voters will be asked to approve a warrant question with the specific amount of money the town will borrow through the issuance of municipal bonds.

Although a simple majority is needed to approve the debt exclusion ballot question at the polls, at Town Meeting, a super majority, or two-thirds vote, will be needed.

Since two large town expenses will expire within the next five years — the landfill and pension funding — Town Manager Neil Harrington and Finance Director Andrew Gould believe taxpayers will only pay additionally on the 20-year library bond for the first five years. After that, bond repayment will be absorbed in the town’s annual budgets for years six through 20.

Selectman Ed Hunt’s suggestion to hold an information session on the ballot question was supported by all his fellow selectmen, as well as Harrington.

“I think the people have the right to vote on this,” Hunt said. “I think we should hold a public hearing to give the people information to make a good decision.”

The prospect of enlarging Salisbury’s busy, but only 3,000-square-foot library began about eight years ago, and Town Meeting has already supported efforts to build a new one. In June 2007, the library was awarded $40,000 in planning and design funds from the Mass. Board of Library Commissioners, with another $20,000 in matching funds approved by Town Meeting.

And on May 17, 2010, Town Meeting approved the design for the new 17,000-square-foot library, giving overwhelming approval after half an hour of debate. In addition, Town Meeting approved applying for the construction grant from the state, which was ultimately won.

Not since 1997 have Salisbury voters found a debt exclusion question on their ballots. At the polls in 1997, voters approved a debt exclusion question to fund its share of renovations and new equipment at Triton Regional High School.

But the town’s largest debt exclusion vote came in November 1995, when townspeople approved the measure to build a new school. The vote, 831 to 525, set the stage for Town Meeting, which approved issuing $14,600 in bonds to build Salisbury Elementary School.