How Union can move forward with housing plans without taxpayer pain
In November, Union citizens will have yet another opportunity to decide the future of the old Union School (the yellow building) and the attached Thompson Community Center. Enough has probably been said about the value of converting the school to 15 to 23 apartments for seniors, and about the benefits of returning the Community Center’s gym, stage, and meeting rooms to safe use.
What may not be clear to many people is how we can do all that without taxpayer pain. A team appointed by the Select Board has worked for a year with the Midcoast Council on Governments (MCOG) to explore options. The essential facts are:
- Once a developer is chosen to renovate the yellow school into apartments, that building will be assessed at its new worth and owe taxes. Tax Increment Financing (TIF) will use roughly half of those annual taxes to maintain the Community Center next-door.
- Further, we qualify for grants from government programs and private foundations. It’s worth noting that the Union library was built without taxpayers’ money. It received many grants, some large like the $50,000 from the Stephen King Foundation. And like the library, we will do fundraising events and a capital campaign.
Renovating the school into apartments will take two years or more. Meanwhile, fundraising for the Thompson Community Center can begin when Articles 2, 3, 4, and 5 pass. Articles 2 through 5 are a package, divided into steps for clarity. But all must pass if this plan is to go forward. It should.
Sherry Cobb lives in Union