FALMOUTH — When voters in Falmouth go to the polls this month, they will decide whether the town should keep two elementary schools in civic use for a new library, community programs and rental space once the students move to a new building across town.

Three Falmouth town councilors did not endorse this comprehensive proposal to reuse the old schools. On behalf of all three, two of us wish to offer a view of the future that calls for caution and continued support for our current town center.

First, we believe the current library is at the heart of our town and that creating a new government-owned center is simply a “want” rather than a “need.”

From a planning perspective, we already have invested in sidewalks, landscaping and other infrastructure that surrounds the current library. It is adjacent to shops, restaurants and entertainment.

On one side are baseball fields, tennis courts and a playground, and on the other, an ice arena, park, gazebo and fitness facility. All are within walking distance of one another, as are the Tidewater and Foreside Estates neighborhoods.

To convert Lunt/Plummer/Motz schools to additional government-funded use simply expands the cost of owning and operating public buildings that are far removed from our town center and adds to the long- term financial obligations of our residents.

That financial obligation is our second concern. In recent years, we have incurred long-term debt for a new police station, an expanded fire department, a new high school and a new elementary school. In addition, we have authorized up to $5 million for the acquisition of open space.

All these facilities and land require additional operating costs for heat, lights, personnel, landscaping, plowing, annual maintenance, etc.

In addition to buildings and land, the town is assuming responsibility for the repair of roads that state government is unable or unwilling to maintain. Such maintenance is a matter of public safety and one of the core responsibilities of government.

The proposal to convert the schools also would authorize drawing down the town’s savings account by as much as $1.5 million. In good times, using these funds might make sense for such a project, but we believe more pressing needs are headed our way.

For example, taxes will be going up this November as Falmouth residents begin paying for the new elementary school. In addition, the proposed school budget includes more than $1 million in additional property taxes to offset cuts in state funding for education.

Though the school board has voted to reduce its overall budget for the third year in a row, its members believe maintaining programs and teachers is the responsible choice in our community. We agree, because education is a need and not a want.

In addition, Falmouth expects to lose another $500,000 in education aid next year with the expiration of a federal grant.

We also are facing repairs and upgrades to our middle school that is in need of renovation, including a new $1.7 million heating system. This heating system is a need, not a want. The challenge of education funding will continue.

Elsewhere, the federal government has been warned by Standard & Poor’s that the failure to reduce the federal debt is jeopardizing the government’s ability to borrow money at a reasonable interest rate.

The only way to restore fiscal responsibility, according to the president’s bipartisan commission on the federal deficit, is to make deep cuts in federal services and raise taxes on you and your family. The hardest hit will be retirees on fixed incomes. As we know, Maine remains the oldest state in the nation for average age, and one of the poorest.

Now, more than ever, we must be cautious with our money.

As long as Augusta and Washington keep passing the buck, towns will have to provide welfare, education, busing, special education services and other state and federally mandated programs.

We also are fighting three wars and funding recovery from natural disasters that appear to occur with greater frequency and severity than at any time in recent memory.

For those reasons, we urge voters to reject the proposed renovation project and support Falmouth’s current town center.

– Special to the Press Herald