Almond: LHS renovation one of Lincoln’s last big projects

Almond: LHS renovation one of Lincoln’s last big projects

LINCOLN – Town Administrator Joseph Almond says he’s on a mission in 2018 to get the Lincoln High School renovation project moving and keep it on schedule.

Almond said there may be good news soon on financial reimbursement from the state. The town should be eligible for an extra 10 percent state reimbursement on the project, bumping up the current rate of 35 to 38 percent, he said.

The town’s school bond should have a minimal impact on the tax rate, said Almond.

The $60 million revamping of Lincoln High School, approved by local taxpayers last year, is one of the last major projects still on the list to do, said Almond, after completing construction and upgrades to other schools, overhauling the police station and library, making upgrades to nearly every town field and park, and redoing the town’s sewer system, among others.

“Things are really good,” said the administrator.

Because the town has been proactive in planning and budgeting, Lincoln residents don’t have to worry about “a $100 million bill six or seven years from now,” said Almond.

More road repaving will be done in 2018, with another $1.3 million set to be poured into local roads, said Almond. The town doesn’t just repave roads, but completely rebuilds them, investing more money up front to secure future savings, he said. The town’s practice is to work with utility companies on repaving, planning out two years in advance to rebuild the road after gas and water lines are redone.

Other than the high school project, roads, and a planned streetlight overhaul, the lack of planned projects is good news for a town that doesn’t have much space left to develop, or potential for new tax revenue.

“Even though we’re limited in revenue growth, we really think we’ve stabilized future expenses,” he said.

The town’s tax levy, or amount collected in taxes, “has grown very modestly” because the town is essentially maxed out on space.

“We’re pretty grown up,” said Almond. “There’s really not a lot of buildable land left.”

Lincoln’s housing market is booming, with strong demand for housing helping to keep prices “strong, strong, strong,” said Almond.

The administrator said he isn’t ready yet to say whether he expects a tax increase this year, but said due to limited growth, there’s a good chance each year that the town will need a minor increase. In addition to keeping up with buildings and infrastructure, the town has been conservative in its contracts, he noted.

The town has seen strong commercial growth at such spots as the Lincoln Mall and Twin River Casino, which also help nearby businesses, said Almond, but the extra revenue from Twin River is used only for capital improvements, not for operational expenses. He said he’s not discounting the positive impact of the casino revenue as a “tool for us to keep taxes down,” but said the year-to-year tax rate isn’t impacted much by it.

Almond said he expects to announce another budget surplus soon, and the town now has combined surplus revenues totaling some 10 percent of its budget.

Many people are contributing to Lincoln’s success, said Almond. The town continues to maintain strong income from businesses, totaling 38 percent of overall revenues.

“For a suburban town, that’s a really good ratio, but you’ve got to keep it vibrant,” he said.

Lincoln is having no trouble filling office vacancies when they come up, said Almond. Its centralized location with great highway access, combined with a healthy local economy, is helping draw more companies all the time.

Almond credited the work of officials over decades of planning Lincoln’s future for residential and commercial development that makes sense. He said planners “stuck to their guns” to lay out how the town would look and function.

Officials are always looking for ways to run more efficiently, and will do so again in 2018, said Almond. The town has reduced staff through attrition for much of the past decade, and should be able to save additional money through further changes in health care and energy savings in the near future, he said.

Comments

The Town of Lincoln is in great financial shape due to the foresight and leadership of Joe Almond. What you are seeing now was planned 10 years ago, and the money we receive from Twin River was wisely restricted for Capital Improvements. Thank you Administrator Almond for your leadership.