A large turnout is expected this year as voters consider whether to approve a major investment with a massive payoff, promising to create what this rural community lacks: The semblance of a centrally located “downtown” to replace a century-old, deteriorated and hazardous Town Hall and a cramped, rented library in a former garage.
Town Center project: Enthusiastically recommended by the Finance Committee, the proposed town offices, community center and library complex would be the largest building project since the renovation and expansion of the Richmond Consolidated School 20 years ago. Requiring financing toward an estimated cost of up to $6.8 million, a two-thirds supermajority is required for approval. A $1.9 million town hall/library proposal came up eight votes short in 2002, and a revised plan failed in 2005 by a handful of votes. Selectman Roger Manzolini, a strong advocate of the project, stresses that interest rates are “better than they’ve ever been in anyone’s lifetime in this town. It could not be any more affordable any time in the future.” He says the design “meets the needs of the community, in line with what Richmond deserves.” Citing the $3 million cost of fixing Town Hall, Manzolini acknowledged, “I hate spending money, we all hate spending money, but I really hate spending money on a rabbit hole, and that’s what we have with the Town Hall and the library, and we don’t have a community center.”
School spending: The town’s appropriation for the Richmond Consolidated School, just below $4 million, is up by 4 percent from the current fiscal year. An additional $495,000 in total school spending is covered by school choice and other revenues, as well as grants. While independent, the school is administered by the Berkshire Hills Regional School District, which shares Superintendent Peter Dillon with Richmond.
Property tax impact: Overall town spending for all expenses, including the proposed Town Center project and the school, would be up by $442,000, a 6.1 percent increase over the current year. The all-in total is $7,660,000, with a property tax rate increase estimated at $1.10 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, bringing it to $13.80, an 8.6 percent increase. For residents, if all town spending is approved, the owner of a median-priced $362,000 house would see an estimated tax increase for the upcoming fiscal year of $398.
Fiscal 2022: $2,383,154
Increase: 1.7 percent
* operating expenses
$3,997,267 for Richmond Consolidated School
$757,262 for highways, including winter and gravel road maintenance:
$316,594 for employee benefits
$145,000 for new Highway Department dump truck:
— Clarence Fanto