Make your own decision on the athletic field and track

| 15 Feb 2012 | 09:29

    There will be lots of accusations in the coming months over a proposed new track and athletic field for the Sparta High School. I want to provide citizens with the financial facts associated with this project today given there will be lots of misinformation circulating in the future. As of Jan. 1, 2011, the Sparta BOE had $85,953,000 of debt remaining on its balance sheet from the High School and Middle School referendums. This figure already includes the $3 million that is earmarked for the new track and field. The money has already been borrowed. The debt is already being serviced. No additional borrowing is needed for the project. If the new track and field are built next year, there will be no incremental cost to taxpayers. There is, however, a continued cost of servicing the debt for the track and field, and taxpayers deserve to have this cost explained. The average home in Sparta is assessed at $301,800 and pays $606.62 in property taxes to service school debt. The $3 million of debt that will be used for the track and field represents 3.5 percent of this $606.62, or roughly $21.17 per year. Since property taxes are deductible on state and federal income tax returns, the real cost of the track and field to Sparta residents is about $15.88 per year for the average homeowner. My recommendation for Sparta residents is to do the following. Take a few minutes to go to the high school and view the condition of the athletic fields and track. Also consider that several of these fields are no longer available because of the required Bog Turtle Habitat and the new footprint of the building. Know that it will cost you about $16 per year to improve the track and fields. Hopefully this will provide you with the perspective necessary to determine if the BOE action to improve the fields and track is appropriate. On a separate note, Paul Johnson wrote a letter stating “anything short of a public referendum on the athletic field will not suffice.” While I do understand Mr. Johnson’s position, I am surprised he did not demand the same of the Town Council prior to the raising of garbage collection fees by 25 percent this past year. Municipal garbage fees were increased $60 per year, from $60 to $75 per quarter. This is despite the fact that the actual cost of garbage collection decreased from $1.6 million per year to $1.5 million per year under the new Blue Diamond contract approved in March 2011. To repeat, the town council raised garbage collection fees by 25 percent despite the fact that Blue Diamond decreased the cost of garbage collection by 6 percent in the new contract. Since municipal garbage fees are not tax deductible, the garbage increase represents a 375 percent greater impact ($60 v. $16) to Sparta residents than the projected cost of the new athletic field and track. Make your own decision. Peter Huhn Sparta