Financing the Future

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Elected and Appointed Officials are exploring the possible replacement and/or renovation of five different buildings:

  • Jones Library,
  • Department of Public Works Headquarters,
  • Central Fire Station,
  • Fort River Elementary School and Wildwood Elementary School

This page is intended to provide an avenue for two way communication with stakeholders. Links to important information will be posted here as it becomes available. Anyone may submit questions on the financing of the four major building projects using our Q and A tool below. Our team will also copy in questions and answers submitted from other sources here.

Town officials will post responses as soon as possible. This page will maintain a running list of questions and answers to help inform the public.

The Building Project Public Engagement tool can be accessed on the right hand side, under "Important Links" or by clicking here.

Stay tuned! If you have questions about this project please contact the staff members listed under the "Who's Listening" tab to the right.


Elected and Appointed Officials are exploring the possible replacement and/or renovation of five different buildings:

  • Jones Library,
  • Department of Public Works Headquarters,
  • Central Fire Station,
  • Fort River Elementary School and Wildwood Elementary School

This page is intended to provide an avenue for two way communication with stakeholders. Links to important information will be posted here as it becomes available. Anyone may submit questions on the financing of the four major building projects using our Q and A tool below. Our team will also copy in questions and answers submitted from other sources here.

Town officials will post responses as soon as possible. This page will maintain a running list of questions and answers to help inform the public.

The Building Project Public Engagement tool can be accessed on the right hand side, under "Important Links" or by clicking here.

Stay tuned! If you have questions about this project please contact the staff members listed under the "Who's Listening" tab to the right.


Ask us your question!

Our goal is to provide as much information as possible to our Amherst community members on these projects, post your question below and we will get back to you as soon as possible. Thank you for using Engage Amherst! 

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  • Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Linkedin Email this link

    Is the need for improvement to town streets and roads included in planning for the town? Amherst roads are in deplorable condition and have been for years. How will this be addressed and will it happen in a more timely fashion than it has been?

    RuthG asked 6 months ago

    Thank you Ruth for this question. 

    The Town Manager and Town Council have made road repairs a high priority. Over the past three years (FY19 to FY21), road repairs have been allocated $2.5 million in capital funding, an amount that is significantly above funding levels in previous years. These funds are in addition to State funds that the Town receives each year for road repairs. 

    In the plan presented to Finance Committee, road repairs continue to be a high priority even as we take on the debt for future building projects. 

    Thank you

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    Why isn’t the town using its rainy day find to stop the cuts to the schools? Isn’t this the purpose of a rainy day find? Also how much money was leftover at the end of the past fiscal years?

    Janet asked 6 months ago

    Thank you for this question.

    The Town considered using reserves to support department budgets early in the process. As the budget process unfolded, revenue projections improved and the latest increase projected for departments is 2.1%. Budget increases in normal years are 2.5%. 

    Throughout the budget process, multiple sources of Federal Aid have been released and we are now exploring how those funds can supplement budgets in FY22.

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    Has the increased cost of operating an expanded library been estimated or considered in the plans to add on/expand thevJones library?

    RuthG asked 6 months ago

    Thank you for this question. The Library Q&A which can be found here QA-For-FinCom-Draft-3-27-21 (amherstma.gov)  goes into great detail on operating costs beginning on page 38.


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    I know there is a proposal by some to stop future development using a building moratorium. But can you tell us how much in taxes the town now sees from some of these buildings versus what was paid in taxes before?

    Clare Bertrand asked 6 months ago

    One way to address this question is to look at the Town's trend in new growth. New growth is how much additional tax money the Town receives in a given year due to new development or property improvements. From 2011 to 2015, new growth averaged $502,000 per year. From 2016 to 2020, new growth averaged $809,000 per year. 

    Thank you

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    I am wondering why it is the school project that is slated for an override vote rather than the library or one of the other projects. Also, is it guaranteed that taxes will not go up more than the allowed % unless there is an override? And would a new school be on the Fort River site rather than the Wildwood site? Why??? when we know about the problems from the school being built on wetlands???

    RuthG asked 6 months ago

    The plan presented to Finance Committee to address all four buildings excluded the school debt for a few key reasons:

    1) Town voters approved temporarily increasing their taxes for the schools once already back in 2016   

    2) To move forward on all four building projects in the near future, the Town will need to exclude debt in the ball park of the amount projected for the schools. If the school debt is not excluded, then the debt for two of the other projects would need to be

    3) Repayment on the school debt will not begin for a few years so excluding the debt will allow time for the local and state economy to recover

    The Town Council has not decided if there will be a debt exclusion at all or what projects will be debt excluded. 

    In regards to the question on taxes, the plan finances the Library, DPW, and Fire Station projects within the allowed % each year but does require an override for the schools.

    A school site has not been determined. The School Building Committee is required to complete a feasibility study which will look at different sites in Town.

    Thank you


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    At one time we were proposing putting the DPW where the Fort River School is Located. When we get the next big flood that area will be underwater and should not have been built on in the first place. DPW is currently located on DRY ground. Do we want a handicapped DPW during times of emergency. Note: both 36 and 39 floods would submerge the fort river school and a lot of other areas in Amherst. These floods have been deliberately ignored in Flood plane designations. Do not put the new buildings in Wetland sensitive areas as we routinely seem to do these days. DPW is needed to be operating a full capacity when the next flood occurs not underwater. We have lost way too much of our local wetlands due too inappropriate building (Butternut is one example. Puffton village and other apartments will also be underwater). Is high and dry land available in Town. We can't afford to loose any more "useless wetland"? Fort River School was built on a swamp; free land? Area should be returned to Nature. We currently don't have plans to put more infrastructure any where near flood planes and or fix infrastructure in Flood planes and wetlands; do we?

    Orchard Valley resident asked 6 months ago

    Thank you for this comment. A location has not been determined for the DPW project or the school project.

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    I am concerned about the potential education cuts, especially the bilingual psychologist. As a retired educator I am well aware of the need to sort out learning difficulties from learning English. I also am concerned about cuts in other departments, and in all of the town services. I realize that all the building projects are important, and that the new school and new fire station are essential. But to have 4 building projects going on simultaneously seems to show a lack of foresight and planning. I suggest we proceed with caution and restraint.

    Marie asked 6 months ago

    Thank you for this comment. The Town has been planning for these four building projects for many years by intentionally growing its reserves, ramping up its capital spending to limit the number of debt exclusions, and pursuing grant programs where possible to help defray the cost to the Town. The reality is that a couple of these buildings should have been addressed a decade or two ago but were not so we need to plan for it now. 

    As we look down the road, there are other buildings in Town that will need to be addressed in twenty or thirty years. Moving forward on this plan will help ensure the Town is ready for the next wave of projects.

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    Why are we considering spending so much on four new top of the line buildings when we don’t have enough money to operate the schools without major cuts right now. I’m not sure I understand that priority given the new and increased needs the COVID school closures will have on our students. Are any of the pre COVID building plans being rethought given new/ current budgetary needs and conditions?

    Paz B. asked 6 months ago

    Thank you for this question. The current pressure on operating budgets is a result of the pandemic and its impact on our local economy.  The good news is there is help on the way from the Federal Government to help support cities and Towns in Massachusetts in their recovery. We have incorporated the impact of the pandemic into our planning and analysis and will be discussing this more at the next Finance Committee meeting on March 16th at 2 PM. 

    The reason these projects have such a high priority now is that many of them have been delayed for several years which has resulted in a backlog of capital needs. We need to address these projects as soon as possible so that backlog doesn't grow even larger.


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    Can you articulate the plan for a scenario whereby a school override in November 2022 or Spring 2023 is unsuccessful? What would that mean for the fire station and DPW projects, assuming (repaying the debt on) $16m had already been committed to the library project out of the capital budget? What might it do to operating budgets and ongoing capital allocation if all or half of the town’s portion of the school project had to be paid out of the capital budget? Thank you.

    Toni C asked 7 months ago

    Thank you Toni, this is a very important question.

    The plan presented to Finance Committee to address all four buildings excluded the school debt for a few key reasons:

    1) Town voters approved temporarily increasing their taxes for the schools once already back in 2016   

    2) To move forward on all four building projects in the near future, the Town will need to exclude debt in the ball park of the amount projected for the schools. If the school debt is not excluded, then the debt for two of the other projects would need to be

    3) Repayment on the school debt will not begin for a few years so excluding the debt will allow time for the local and state economy to recover

    The Town Council has not decided if there will be a debt exclusion at all or what projects will be debt excluded. 

    If a debt exclusion override is used for the school project and it is unsuccessful, Town Officials at that time will need to analyze why it was unsuccessful and review all available options. One option could be to go back to the voters with a different debt exclusion and another could be to evaluate the capacity of ongoing capital funds at the time. 

    Thank you

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    Could you sell a school site and the current firehouse to fund these projects?

    JW asked 7 months ago

    Great question. If these projects move forward, the Town will certainly explore the potential to generate new revenues from any site that is left vacant.

    Thank you

Page last updated: 23 February 2021, 06:50