A heated battle over municipal water has enveloped my small rural NYS town for the past two years. The Town government has tried to jump-start a water project several times, and residents are evenly split on the issue. A referendum defeated their first proposal, but now the project has been revived and the town is proceeding without voter approval, something that is allowed by town law.
One of the biggest arguments in favor of this project is the claim that public water would spur commercial and residential development, and that this would in turn increase our tax base, thereby reducing property taxes and offsetting the high cost of the project (currently projected at about $1000/year/household). Opponents claim that studies show that increasing population in rural communities does not in fact lower per-capita tax rates; residents of new housing developments tend to pay for the resources they themselves consume and in fact can raise overall tax rates by creating the need for projects like school-system expansions and infrastructure improvements.
I realize that this question is far more complex and subtle than I describe above, but I'd like to find some definitive studies that might help resolve it one way or the other in our town -- or at least provide a reality check that might result in a better-educated debate. Our Town fathers seem to have no background whatsoever in urban planning (or even in project management -- the current effort is being conducted without competitive bidding or even a requirements analysis).
Can anyone direct me to an appropriate resource?