ALTON — Charges of "figures lie and liars figure" swirled around the School Board meeting this week in the wake of a flyer composed by the Building and Grounds Committee, endorsed by the board members and produced by the superintendent's office, which claimed that the $18.7-million project to renovate and expand Alton Central School would add $0.34 per $1,000 of assessed value to the property tax rate.
"This was over the edge," Barbara Howard, who sits on the Budget Committee, said yesterday. "They are lying by omission and nobody benefits from dishonesty."
On Tuesday, voters will cast their ballots on a Special Warrant Article – Article II – to renovate, reconstruct, repair and construct an addition to the Alton Central School building. The bond seeks to raise and appropriate an approximate $17.7 million and withdraw the balance from several Capital Reserve Funds to fund the project.
Superintendent William Lander said that the flyer presents the "the net project cost" as $34 per year for each $100,000 of assessed value on the assumption that the $17.7-million is borrowed for 15 years at 2.99-percent. He explained that the bond issued for the construction of Prospect Mountain High School, which represented $0.68 per $1,000 of assessed value, was retired last year. Had the bond not been retired and the tax rate remained the same, he said, the incremental increase, or "net project cost" to taxpayers, would be $0.34 per $1,000 of assessed value.
"It's misleading," Howard charged, insisting the actual impact on the tax rate will be $1.02. She said that with the retirement of the prior debt in August, 2012, the 2013 tax rate would fall by $0.68 and by omitting this fact, the School Board sought to disguise the actual increase of $1.02.
Lander said that at the deliberative session of the town meeting both scenarios, the actual increase of $1.02 per $1,000 and "the net project cost" of $0.34 of $1,000, were presented as part of a slide show.
Howard was not appeased. "I spoke with the Attorney General's office," she said, "but was told they had not broken any enforceable law." She feared that the flyer will "mislead people into voting for something they will not be able to afford" and in the short time remaining until the vote is seeking "to get the facts out."