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Swampscott may have police station cost fix

SWAMPSCOTT – Members of the Police Station Building Committee and Finance Committee believe they have a way to pay for a proposed $6.4 million police station without raising property taxes.”The consensus of the Finance Committee is taxpayers have no appetite for a debt exclusion,” Finance Committee Chairman Michael McClung said. “But we have to figure out how to get this done so we are looking at funding it within the existing tax levy so it would not have any financial impact on taxpayers.”A new police station on the Humphrey Street site is expected to cost $6.4 million and $450,000 of that was already appropriated by Town Meeting for site studies and designs.Joe Markarian, who is the former Police Station Building Committee chairman, said both committees believe it is possible to pay for a new police station by borrowing within the budget.”There are only two places to get the money,” he said. “You can fund it through a debt exclusion or the existing budget. There is a line item in the budget to cover long-time borrowing. If we bonded the police station without a debt exclusion it would appear as a line item in the budget.”McClung said if the town bonded the money for a period of 20 years, he expects it would cost less than $300,000 a year to repay the debt.But town officials would still need to find ways to raise revenue, such as asking Town Meeting to adopt the local option meals tax, which if adopted would increase the meals tax in town from 6.25 percent to 7 percent.Data provided by the state Department of Revenue (DOR) indicates the local meals tax option would raise $150,000 for the town in the first year and $180,000 in the second year.Markarian noted the town is currently paying $140,000 a year to maintain the former temple and middle school, which is money they could save by selling the properties.In May 2003, Town Meeting authorized borrowing more than $1 million to renovate the existing police station.But two years later, Town Meeting members voted in favor of purchasing the 3.5-acre Temple Israel property and money previously authorized for the police station was put toward the purchase of that property instead, a move that was supported by most town officials.But town officials ultimately decided to sell the Temple Israel property instead of retaining it for municipal use.Police Chief Ronald Madigan said he is pleased the selectmen are discussing the need for a new police station and how to pay for it at their meeting on Wednesday.”We need a police station,” he said. “I appreciate the broad support among the boards and committees in town. It is encouraging to see this being discussed.”McClung said if the town votes for a $6 million debt exclusion he expects it would cost the owner of a $500,000 home approximately $85 more a year for the next 20 years.

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