Proponents of Falmouth’s Question 1 continue to assert the fiction that we can spend $5.6 million on a new town center with no increase in our taxes. A neat trick, but it just isn’t so.

No new taxes — as compared to what? Is there some rule that the mill rate can’t be reduced? The notion that this unprecedented expansion of facilities and services won’t have a significant impact on costs and taxes in the future simply doesn’t pass the straight-face test. Proponents’ calculations treat the properties as if they were free.

Hardly. They are only available thanks to a new elementary school that will raise our taxes by 6.3 percent this year. The proposal also contemplates using $1.5 million of undesignated surplus to offset costs.

Town policy explicitly states that excess reserve funds, currently totaling more than $3 million, be returned to the taxpayers by offsetting expenses to keep taxes down.

Finally, the group acknowledges the increased operating costs of new programs and a larger library, but offsets them with rental income from an as-yet-unidentified tenant at the Plummer School.

A fair analysis of this project’s impact would, as its starting point, calculate the projected mill rate if this surplus property was sold in total and returned to the tax rolls, and surplus funds were used to cushion the impact of other needs, like the costs of the new school.

At a time when the school budget is so strapped that kids have to pay to play soccer, a vigorous debate about our town’s priorities is long overdue. It would be helpful if citizens had honest numbers to frame the discussion.

David Murray


The fuzzy numbers that Falmouth town councilors have come up with to support Question 1, together with a 4½-year time frame to raise the monies with a moratorium on construction in the meantime, are enough to give a voter realistic pause.

I certainly hope town officials will post the complex order that Question 1 is based on inside every voting booth. That is the only way that those who have not seen all the contingencies and intricately related details will have the opportunity to do so before they vote.

Can the library really raise $1.25 million in addition to selling the property for $1.25 million in this “mackerel” economy? I served two terms on the Falmouth Library Board of Trustees, one as president.

I was on the 1993 joint study committee that worked on the library’s first expansion. I co-chaired the building committee for the project, as well as chaired its budget committee. Back then, we were hard-pressed to raise a little over $700,000.

What we did do was ensure that the 1995 expansion went forward with future on-site expansion in mind.

A consultant the library hired in 2003 recommended adding 3,900 square feet to the south side of the library, which, he said, and I agree, would meet state guidelines and serve a population of up to 13,500.

This recommendation notably was made years before the advent of electronic reading devices. That medium of reading will surely change library space needs dramatically sooner than later. The library should stay where it has been since 1955.

Stephen C. Ryder


I am a 25-year resident of Falmouth and a current trustee of the Falmouth Memorial Library, and I am voting “no” on Question 1.

If the referendum passes, the library will conduct a capital campaign to raise the $1.25 million specified in the financial plan for Question 1.

Yet the plan caps the library expansion move at $3 million and the entire “town center” project at $5.65 million. No construction can begin on any piece until all monies are “in.”

Voting “yes” on Question 1 does not obligate the town to proceed. In fact, it explicitly cannot proceed unless and until several transactions are completed. One transaction is a $2 million sale of an as-yet-undesignated piece of land. There is no signed option-to-purchase agreement or even a verbal commitment.

This referendum puts an unusual burden on an abutter who has not yet been invited to submit a formal bid.

A second example is the Plummer school building, which must have a tenant. There is no such agreement in place, nor is the requisite zoning issue settled. The building needs extensive work, the costs for which will likely be paid by the town.

This referendum has put an enormous drain on our library, which has spent limited resources on consultants, architects and engineers. If Question 1 passes, we will continue to spend on such services without any guarantees that we can proceed.

The library needs more space. The site we are on is too small for an expansion and the building is full of limitations. We need to move, but Question 1 is not the way to help us.

A “no” vote on Question 1 will put the council on notice that a referendum should support sound planning with details outlining what will happen, not what might happen.

Susan Tartre

Falmouth Memorial Library Trustee


RSU 5 sports complex too expensive for towns 

On June 14, Durham residents will have the opportunity to vote on approving $3 million in new debt for the towns of Durham, Pownal and Freeport. These towns make up the consolidated RSU 5 school district.

The financing would be used to build an eight-lane, all-weather track; artificial turf field for soccer, lacrosse, football, field hockey and numerous other sports; a press box, concessions and night lighting — right in downtown Freeport.

Other communities around us are cutting budgets. The reality is that Durham is not undergoing an economic boom, and household budgets are weighed heavy with continuous inflated costs of fuel, food and medicines.

We sent the message last November to stop the spending and get the budgets under control. This message needs to be sent to RSU 5.

This is a beautiful project, but does it have to be so over-the-top? It will benefit approximately 600 students who partake in sports. That’s $3 million in debt for 600 students at the taxpayers’ expense. There must be common sense in investing in our children and protecting our residents on fixed and struggling budgets.

This project also heavily benefits the town of Freeport’s tourism at the expense of Durham and Pownal residents. What would happen if RSU 5 designed a $1 million football field and tacked it on to the Freeport Field and Trails Project?

This is already under way with three baseball diamonds, four fields, a two-story field house and an extensive trail system on 34 acres off Hunter Road.

What would happen if booster clubs, and the residents who want this, raised the money first and then built the new sports complex? There’s a novel idea.

Please send RSU 5’s plan back to the drawing board. Please vote “no” on June 14.

Elizabeth Liscomb