The Town of Westport approved its 2020 budget last week. And for the second year in a row, the municipality has elected to borrow more than a million dollars for road improvements.
Town administrator Tom Wilson said the financing is needed to keep projects on schedule.
“We have to start fixing our roads,” Wilson said. “People have been patient out here. And now it’s time to complete the promises that were made to the (community) that we were going to get the roads in shape.”
Wilson said next year’s work includes reconstruction of six roads in the Mary Lake subdivision which will cost the town an estimated $1,147,860.
The town has budgeted for those improvements with an anticipated $1.2 million banknote.
Though the seven-year loan will increase the town’s outstanding debt to more than $2 million, finance manager Bob Anderson said the municipality has far more room for debt capacity.
“We’re not even making a dent in it,” Anderson said. “We can borrow $40 million. It’s 5 percent of your assessed value, and we’re at $975 million for 2019. And next year, we should hit a billion. So that would give us $50 million in borrowing.”
The finance manager said the borrowing is part of a long-term plan for road improvements.
“The town has a 15-year capital plan to rebuild a lot of the roads,” Anderson said. “So we have roughly $1.1 million a year, give or take, for the next 15 years. This was year one.”
Anderson said the length of the loans was chosen by comparing overall cost to taxpayers.
“They picked a seven-year package for the financing,” Anderson said, “because five had a steeper increase in the tax rate and 10 had too much of an impact on the interest. So they settled on a seven-year. They thought that was the best balance.”
The borrowing has brought the town’s 2020 debt service to $765,860.
Next year’s tax levy has been set at $2,060,567 – an increase of 9.46 percent from the year prior. However, Wilson said the recent re-evaluation should offset any increase in the tax rate.
“Because of the re-val,” Wilson said, “it’s likely that people’s town taxes are going to be pretty level from what they were last year…They’re going to be pretty steady, even with an increase in the budget for road improvements, which is what we were hoping for.”
Those with questions about the budget should contact Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org.