By BRIDGET TURCOTTE
SAUGUS — Town Manager Scott Crabtree is proposing a plan to assist seniors, veterans, and other residents with taxes associated with the cost of a new school, should the measure pass in Tuesday’s special election.
“We are taking proactive steps to negate additional taxes on our residents who would most be affected by a tax increase so they can support this much-needed investment in our children and our community,” said Crabtree in a statement. “This new, proposed grades 6-12, Saugus Middle-High School District-Wide Master Plan Solution is a vital initiative for the Town of Saugus and the future of education for our children.”
If Tuesday’s vote is successful, Crabtree said he will request a Special Town Meeting and submit an article to be voted by Town Meeting that will double the tax exemption for eligible seniors, veterans, and other taxpayers.
The plan is intended to assist with taxes associated with the investment in the proposed middle-high school district-wide master plan solution, which includes renovations to the Belmonte Middle School and Veterans Memorial Elementary School.
On Tuesday, residents will be asked to support an investment of $186 million. That includes $160 million for a proposed grades 6-12 combination middle and high school and a $25 million district-wide master plan that would restructure the district to include an upper elementary school for grades 3-5 at the existing Belmonte Middle School and a lower elementary school for Pre-K through grade 2 at the Veterans Memorial Elementary School.
The master plan is a town project and is not being pursued through the MSBA. The town’s share of the total project would be an estimated $118 million, bonded over a 30-year period.
The Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) will reimburse the town at a minimum rate of 53 percent — which is expected to increase — of eligible approved project costs for the middle-high school.
Under Crabtree’s plan, the real estate property tax exemption already being provided to eligible seniors, veterans, and other qualifying taxpayers who meet statutory exemptions would be doubled. The current taxpayer annual exemption for eligible seniors, veterans, and other residents ranges from $309 to a full tax exemption of local property taxes, according to a statement from Crabtree’s office.
“The proposed increased exemption would not only help mitigate tax increases under the project for eligible seniors, veterans, and other taxpayers, but it may also result in these residents receiving savings greater than the amount of the tax increase,” said Crabtree. “We know there are many residents who support the School District’s plan and its vision to provide facilities and resources that meet the academic needs of all students, and we hope this exemption plan will eliminate any tax concerns for these affected residents.”
A fact sheet provided by Crabtree details the cost to residents with average home value assessments. According to The Warren Group, in March, the median home value in Saugus was $374,950.
At $375,000, the cost would be $76 in 2018, $118 in 2019, and would continue gradually increasing until reaching $541 in 2024. The cost would then begin to gradually decline.
Crabtree said the town’s recently earned S&P AA+ bond rating, which is the highest rating in the town’s history, will save taxpayers an estimated $7.2 million in savings over the life of the bond.
Bridget Turcotte can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @BridgetTurcotte.