With so many residents feeling override fatigue, it takes a lot for a town to push any type of exemption from the state's Proposition 2½ tax limit. In the case of Manchester-by-the-Sea, it may take a state mandate.
Two key referendum questions promise to make Tuesday's town election interesting. One seeks approval for using $2.4 million to purchase three polluted house lots on Pine Street, and do the testing prior to a cleanup as mandated by the Department of Environmental Protection. The other seeks to raise the money for the project through a debt exclusion, a tax increase over the 2.5 percent limit for what is now being projected as for 20 years.
The first question will require a two-thirds majority; the second a simple majority.
Since a potential homebuyer did tests that found pollution on the site of a former 1950s dump, the town and families living in the homes have been trying to find a way to remediate the situation. The solution, if it's supported by residents, will be for the town to buy the three homes, tear them down, and clean up the pollution underneath.
With a projected 4 percent borrowing rate, a property owner with a $500,000 home would pay an additional $50 in property taxes in the first year, less in subsequent years, according to Board of Selectman Chairwoman Susan Thorne.
If the first question fails to gain a two-thirds majority, the Department of Environmental Protection is likely to do the cleanup and send the town the bill, according to Thorne. The town also may risk a lawsuit from the residents who live in those homes, she said.
If the first question gains the needed majority and the second fails, funding the project will require deep cuts in the operating budget, Thorne said.
"Our real hope is to have sufficient support on both."
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