In June, Falmouth voters will be asked to approve a $12 million general obligation bond to pay for the Route 1 improvement project. The treasurer’s statement in the referendum question anticipates the bond will be paid off with money from the Route 1 “TIF” account, so there will no need to raise property taxes.
That is true if the TIF properties continue to appreciate in taxable value at the historical rate of 1.5 percent annually. But past performance is no guarantee of future results. If they don’t, an obvious alternative to paying off the debt is to increase property taxes, or, as a councilor suggested, but did not specify on April 8, reduce and/or eliminate municipal services.
On April 8 and 22 residents asked the council to add clarifying language to the treasurer’s statement that if the TIF money was insufficient to pay the debt, property taxes might be raised and/or municipal services impacted. The council admitted such risks exist, but voted not to add the language. The majority felt the risks were so slight voters didn’t need to know about them or their consequences. One councilor said clarifying language would “confuse” the voters, who then might vote against the project.
Regardless of the council’s failure to clarify the facts, there are risks that before 2030, the TIF account may be insufficient, and there will be increased property taxes and/or reduction or elimination of municipal services to cover the shortfall. Voters need to be aware of these risks.
M. Roberts Hunt