BOS dedicating Thursday night to budget: 6.37% tax increase recommended to board; several groups asking for increased funding (Updated-again)

by beth on January 9, 2019

Post image for BOS dedicating Thursday night to budget: 6.37% tax increase recommended to board; several groups asking for increased funding (Updated-again)

Above: The Town’s Admin and Finance team is presenting it’s recommended budget to selectmen tomorrow night. (excerpt cropped from packet)

With Annual Town Meeting slated to open earlier than in past years, Town officials need to finalize budgets soon. As I previously posted, the Board of Selectmen carved out this Thursday night to focus on fiscal issues.

The Admin and Finance team will present it’s budget recommendation. The meeting packet previews a budget projected to increase the tax rate by 6.37%. That is estimated as an average residential household increase of $645.23.

Only 3.15% of that is due to new operational/capital expense increases. The rest is for “debt service”, with 2.62% attributed to the new Public Safety Building project.

Reaching that budget required saying no to a lot of budget requests. To avoid going in circles, the board asked to have all the facts and arguments that night. Any departments or committees with objections to their budgets were to make them known more than two days in advance. Based on the agenda and packet posted yesterday, there were quite a few.

Several committees and two departments are apparently pushing back on the team’s denial of $168,810 in additional spending. The team’s presentation states “Each additional $50,000 in funding is equivalent to: $12.19 or .12%”.

Following the budget presentation, selectmen will hear five presentations to consider more funding. Below, I listed those departments and related discrepancies:

  • Historical Commission ($500 – $1,000* for operating budget – based on needs for managing the preservation restriction and the demolition delay bylaw)
  • Municipal Technology Committee ($5,000 for an operating budget – MTC has no budget and argues one is needed to save the Town more than that amount through improved efficiencies)
  • Open Space Preservation Commission ($1,500 to double its operating budget)**
  • Police Department ($48,764 for a 2nd new police cruiser under Capital Expenses)
  • Southborough Youth & Family Services ($36,046 for additional staffing hours)

[Editor’s Note: A presentation by the Economic Development Committee was added in a revised agenda released on the morning of January 10th.]***

The budget also lists discrepancies with boards not listed as presenting tomorrow night:

  • Advisory Committee ($500 for an additional .4% increase for its operating budget,** plus another $70,000 discrepancy for the Reserve Fund is likely addressing a recommendation by Advisory)
  • Planning Board ($6,000 for an additional 3.94% increase for its operating budget)**

It is possible that selectmen may question representatives of those boards attending. (It looks like if anyone is attending for either committee, it won’t be a quorum. No agendas are posted.****)

Department heads not listed were also asked to attend, in case selectmen have questions. 

At last week’s meeting, Town Administrator Mark Purple reiterated that departments and committees requests are reasonable. Taken individually, each one has a case to make for a bigger budget. But putting all the requests together, the asks are too much. (You can read more about the Town’s financial challenges this year in my previous post on the issues here.)

The presentation clarifies that some figures are still potentially in flux. There may be updates for the regional schools, Assabet technical school and the Retirement Assessment.

You can preview the budget presentation and the email communications about objections in the meeting packet here. (It includes a preview of SYFS’ formal presentation they will be making to the board.)

Following the presentations, selectmen will discuss their recommendation on the numbers. The board may not decide on final numbers this week.

Selectmen intend to schedule a follow up meeting with the Advisory Committee. Advisory will have it’s own positions on the budget to share with voters at Town Meeting. If opinions differ, they’ll likely try to hash out compromises in advance. (The officials are willing to go to voters with differing positions. But they prefer to have a united front when possible.)

Of course, even if selectmen and Advisory agree on the budget, the final outcome is determined by voters.

2019 Annual Town MeetingResidents aren’t invited to comment tonight. But there will be a chance to comment on spending, vote up or down, and even make motions to amend the figures on Town Meeting floor. So, save the date. Annual Town Meeting opens on Saturday, March 23 at 1:00 pm.

*The budget presentation listed a $1,000 discrepancy with the Historical Commission. The recommended budget calls for cutting $1,000 from their current funding level. An email from Chair Joe Hubley states “I’d be able to get bye with a $500 cut.”

**The presentation doesn’t indicate if the budget cuts OSPC, Advisory, or the Planning Board were intended to represent cutting any specific items or just keeping down their overall budget increases. (The packet does include an email outlining Planning’s budget. The others weren’t detailed in the packet.)

***Updated (1/10/19 11:10 am): This morning a revised agenda added a budget presentation by the EDC. You can read more about that in a dedicated post.

****Updated (1/10/19 1:55 pm): I have to add another update. This time it’s to correct my error in sloppy reporting. I wrote that Planning posted an agenda saying it would be there. I don’t know what I misread or misrecalled – but that isn’t the case. Planning’s next meeting is 1/28/19. There is no agenda for them to be at tonight’s meeting. (Though, one member may attend without posting an agenda.)

Updated (1/15/19 8:51 am): After hearing from Historical’s Treasurer Kate Battles, I realized my original wording above was probably misleading. It didn’t clarify that Historical was seeking to reduce the cut being made to its current funding level.

{ 59 comments… read them below or add one }

1 arborist January 9, 2019 at 11:59 AM

WOW, where did this come from, My yearly tax bill is coming closer and closer to my yearly income, give us a brake on this unnecessary spending please. What has happened to our town?

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2 Richard Hertz January 9, 2019 at 3:23 PM

Excuse me, a 6.37 percent tax hike, resulting in an average household tax bill increase of $654.23?

Are these people kidding? Apparently, they have complately lost their grip on reality while plotting to tighten their grip on our wallets. Good thing the town election is just four months away.

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3 Matthew Brownell January 9, 2019 at 7:31 PM

A 6.37% tax increase??

Question –

Where are the adults on the Board of Selectmen and Adisory Committee who have the backbone to invoke the word “NO!” to spiraling funding demands for non-essential budget line items?

More ,ridiculous is the Board Of Selectmen’s ask of Mr. Ballantine – to embark on a multi-week Excel crunch and “what if” impact scenario- with assumed budget increases of 5%, (choke), 6% (huh?), and 7% ( please send a pallet of anti-psychotics to this year’s Annual Town Meeting)

A 5, 6, or 7% budget increase ? These are the lame and contrived budget parameters set before us by our Town leaders – many of whom have been avoiding tough choices for years.

Keeping my fingers crossed for the appearance of several hundreds of aggravated and curious Southborough taxpayers , who will summarily shout out “HOLD” at the Town Meeting on any department, commission, or project budget line item that is more than 3.5% higher than last year.

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4 Concerned Voter January 10, 2019 at 10:04 AM

Could not agree with you more on your observation:
“More ridiculous is the Board of Selectmen’s ask of Mr. Ballentine — to embark on a mult-week Excel crunch and “what if” impact scenario- with assumed budget increases of 5%, (choke), 6% (huh?), and 7% ( please send a pallet of anti-psychotics to this year’s Annual Town Meeting). . . .A 5, 6, or 7% budget increase ? These are the lame and contrived budget parameters set before us by our Town leaders — many of whom have been avoiding tough choices for years. . .”

Exactly right, which has what has placed the taxpayers into this boat in the first place. . . avoiding tough choices, combined with perhaps budgetary mismanagement? How does this dire situation even be allowed to happen? Overspending has to stop. Better and tougher budgetary decisions must be made. The voters must get familiar with this budget fast and push hard for common sense measures.

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5 M January 9, 2019 at 9:38 PM

WOW is right! Fair warning to every board and facet of Town Government: Get this down to a reasonable percentage or expect EVERY item on the budget to be argued at Town Meeting. I can see the wheels turning now with every special interest group.

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6 Neil Rossen January 10, 2019 at 6:47 AM

Correct me if I’m wrong, but do school costs rise while there are fewer students?

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7 Townie January 10, 2019 at 8:55 AM

Southborough schools, who’s budget is by far the biggest, couldn’t cut a penny? That’s ridiculous. Why is the BOS not coming down on them to help with cuts?

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8 n January 10, 2019 at 9:25 AM

Schools increased 0.9% from FY19. They are not the problem. Look at slide 8 of the BOS package.

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9 Mom24 January 10, 2019 at 11:57 AM

The schools are the problem. They should be cutting and they are not. If you had any idea of the spending that goes on to spend down the budget at the end of the year, it would make you sick. Johnson believes she should be able to spend freely and does. Does anybody even look at the school budgets or does school committee just give her carte blache? Does Advisory or the BOS? They could easily lower the budget and stop gouging us with unnecessary spending but they refuse. Time to wake up people. The schools are killing us. Although we have to fund them and we want our kids to have a great education, we don’t have to go broke doing it. I have kids in the elementary schools and want them to have a good education but sometimes the word is “no”. It is time for some fiscal responsibility in the schools and it starts with the Superintendent. Sad that she is too entitled to admit it.

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10 Townie January 10, 2019 at 12:19 PM

N, you’re right. 0.9%. Most of that was school debt, which we should have seen a decrease in the budget. The school budget has a 2.9% increase for next year. Schools have always been the problem when it comes to frivolous spending. Student enrollment has been on a steady decrease, but we’re still dumping money into schools. The BOS needs to grow a set and tell the schools to restructure. Close Neary and reconsolidate resources.

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11 Frank Crowell January 10, 2019 at 1:25 PM

Let’s see if I’m reading slide 8 correctly……………the schools debt is down almost 40%. I wonder if that’s the reason the total increase is only 0.9%………no that can’t be right… I’ll do some more reading……..oh look at this a $329,000 increase in benefits…….and that would be a 7.5% increase.

Nope, nothing to cut in that school budget. I’m sure it’s a “bare bones” budget. Per student expense cannot be cut even if it’s $2000 more per student than neighboring towns.

School population decrease for over ten years – nope no savings to be had there either. And no change for foreseeable future since another superintendent has been found from within (how lucky could we get). It’s a teacher’s union and school admin paradise.

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12 Matthew Brownell January 10, 2019 at 4:22 PM

Frank ,

Spot- on.

Teacher’s Union graft in Southborough ?? !! Say it ain’t so!!!

Kind of reminds me of our imploding heath care system. . . where, of all tax dollars spent on medical service delivery, only 20% is spent on direct patient care. The rest? Bloated “Administration” and paper pushing.

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13 Kelly Roney January 17, 2019 at 3:55 PM

The private sector is where the bureaucratic bloat is in the US healthcare system – insurance companies trying to deny valid claims to keep more of the money we all pay for coverage. Your 20% patient care number is completely false.

14 how_many? January 13, 2019 at 4:39 PM

Look at ARHS – one (1) principal and three (3) ‘assistant’ principals!!!

THREE?!?! How about ONE!

Ridiculous…

A full year’s salary for a maybe 10 month per year job. As they say, “nice work if you can get it…”

Robbery.

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15 southsider January 14, 2019 at 12:07 PM

Hopkinton has two Assistant Principals for 1175 students.
Algonquin has three for 1425 students.
Shrewsbury has four for 1800 students.

I stopped my research after that

16 Kelly Roney January 14, 2019 at 3:26 PM

I believe those specific people you’re accusing of criminality already work 12-month contracts. My mother did when she was an elementary school principal.

17 Downtown Resident January 10, 2019 at 1:45 PM

My question regarding schools is why do we pay so much to Assabet Valley? There is generally less than a dozen Southborough students attending that school but our budget is $367,672 and they are asking for a 3% increase. Our we required to pay a minimum amount to Assabet?

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18 beth January 10, 2019 at 3:17 PM

We have to pay for each student from Southborough that attends.

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19 arborist January 10, 2019 at 9:30 AM

How many town department heads live in another town? If they lived in southboro they would think twice before they asked the voters to spend beyond their means. It is easy to ask for huge amounts of money and not to have to foot the bill. sure everyone wants the best for their program or department I understand that, but where does it stop.? The town has to live within their means just like us homeowners/land owners.

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20 n January 10, 2019 at 9:38 AM

Questions that I hope are addressed at tonight’s BOS meeting….

Slide 8 – What would a FY2021 forecast column reflect?
• Town staff indicated at the December BOS meetings that FY2021 is going to be as, or more difficult.
• Why not share a best estimate for FY2021? THIS is critical. Please show us what you know and /or can reasonably expect.

Slide 8 – Other available revenue decreases 38.9% from $3,389,405 to $2,071,185.
• What is this?
• Why has it decreased?
• Was the BOS & TA aware of this and if they were, how did they take it into consideration over the past year?

Slide 8 – Total schools increased $374,822 (1.1%?) from $35,373,784 to $35,748,606.
• How much did the overall regional budget increase?
• How did the allocation percentage between Northborough and Southborough change from FY 2019 to FY 2020?
• Are we are benefiting from a lower percentage of students in the regional system?

Slide 11 – fire department increasing from $2,156,758 to $2,163,324.
• Does this include the additional compensation for the new chief?
• Does it include any new employees (assistant or deputy chief)?

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21 beth January 10, 2019 at 11:34 AM

Re your question on revenue – Finance Director Brian Ballantine said in December that there was a significant decrease by about $1M in revenue from state reimbursements through the SBAB grant. He referred to it as intended to be an offset against debt and this “just happens to be the year it goes down.” http://www.mysouthborough.com/2018/12/20/town-meeting-2019-a-rough-update-on-the-budget-and-articles/

An internet search pulled up references to School Building Assistance Bureau – leading me to believe it’s related to debt for past school construction/renovation projects.

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22 n January 10, 2019 at 12:00 PM

• Are we are benefiting from a lower percentage of students in the regional system?

Clarification: a lower percentage of students as compared to FY 2019?

Beth – in regards to the “other revenue” question:

A $1.3 million reduction in state reimbursements from the state is more than a bit material at 2.5% of our FY2019 total expenditures of $53.647 million.

How does the impact of something like that get overlooked? Years of visibility into when the reimbursements get reduced and we failed to plan for it?

FWIW, I do not know if the impact is due to the SBAB grant or not (suspect it is, and not arguing with you).

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23 beth January 10, 2019 at 12:08 PM

To be clear, I wasn’t opining on any of your criticisms – just offering the little data I had from the prior presentation. I don’t know why that reimbursement went down this year and how long the Town knew (or should have known) that reduction was coming.

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24 Kelly Roney January 10, 2019 at 1:58 PM

Am I reading this right? An operating budget increase at the rate of inflation, plus new capital expenses, more than 80% of which is the public safety building – is that the size of it?

Not to minimize this since it is real pain in the pocketbook, and it would still be good to look for chances to cut the budget, but it doesn’t look as though it’s anything we haven’t repeatedly voted for.

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25 Matthew Brownell January 14, 2019 at 5:10 AM

Kelly Roney-

I didn’ vote for a $26 million Public Safety building.

And I’ll wager that fewer than than 20% of Southborough’s eligible voters did.

While Southborough police , firefighters and EMT’s definitely deserve better digs than what they currently have, I ask again – what did the BOS specifically do to ensure a competitive bidding process for the new Public Safety building?

Can’t help but recollect a hilarious episode of “Family Guy”, where Mayor West of the fictitious town “Quohog” makes an impetuous decision to use taxpayer monies to erect a 20-ft, gold-plated statue of “Dig-‘Em”, the Sugar Smacks Frog – on the village square.

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26 Kelly Roney January 14, 2019 at 3:24 PM

That ship has sailed, Matt.

Whether you skipped Town Meeting or voted against, 90% of the voters who attended voted in favor, and it passed a capital override vote at the polls. That’s how we decide what to do.

Complaining after that is sour grapes.

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27 Matthew Brownell January 14, 2019 at 7:21 PM

Kelly Roney-

Sour Grapes?

Just tired of working each year from January 1st to roughly July 1st , before I realize the first dime of my income.

So much the decades – old myth of New England frugality .

BTW- usually I hear the most frequent Tax & Spend war drums in Southborough people who live in an apartment and pay no property taxes.

It’s easy and exceeding cheap to promote the spending of other people’s money, when the advocate has no skin or equity in the game, and is not a stakeholder in paying the resulting bills.

Having attended many Southborough Annual Town Meeting over the last 20 years, it is very much a stretch to spin the narrative that the decisions made in this anachronistic throwback to scrimshaw, oil lamps, and the Town Criers is in any way representative majority local opinion or desired direction for the Town.

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28 southsider January 10, 2019 at 5:18 PM

we asked for much of this when we ok’d that colossal Public Safety building complete with a solar paneled parking area for 19 vehicles even tho we only own 12…. $300k or more just for the parking canopy is the latest estimate, if I recall correctly.

as for revenue increases… is it FINALLY time when we’ll realize the need for split tax rates??

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29 Concerned Voter January 11, 2019 at 8:34 AM

Exactly. And the parking “add-on” was after the fact. It was a no bid situation after that committee made a claim of “no bidders.” One commenter on this blog came up with literally scores of examples of how other municipalities managed to get this done at less cost (and in one case, free). Maybe Beth can post the link to that comment, as it serves as a good reminder. The galling part of paying for the colossal project, outsized in every way including the gym, is the 19 vehicle parking when there are only 12 vehicles. (After watching Chronicle’s report on the Chelsea police, it seems that most other communities do not provide these types of accommodations.) This implies the town is paying for MORE vehicles and MORE salaried persons to sit in those vehicles including pensions. The seniors in this town can barely afford existing past tax bills, food, cost of living. Talk about insensitivities. The time for split tax rate is now.

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30 southsider January 11, 2019 at 11:15 AM

thanks for the support. As for the garage, I think the extravagance gets even more pronounced when you consider that it would be an extreme rarity when all vehicles are at the Police Station. After all, shouldn’t several of them ( at least ) be patrolling our streets?

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31 Matthew January 13, 2019 at 8:37 AM

You would be surprised at the number of parked cruisers that are at the station at any given time. Stop in yourself and see. There are always cruisers in the lot, sometimes you see one left running outside for periods of time.
By the way…we need another one.

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32 HonestAbespeaks@gmail.com January 16, 2019 at 10:51 AM

The police may want a new cruiser.The police can go without the shiny new car for another year. The police and Boards here wanted a multi million dollar building that could virtually house every New York City Police precinct with room left over. A practical building, with great thought and respect for the tax payers and their money. Thank you Boards.
Now after The “TAJ” has become a reality and a testament to all things unnecessary, overdone, and frivolous, here’s some other police/fire new builds/renovated builds that you should read. Norfolk, Ma. $12.2 million, population 11,000. Buffalo, N.Y., certainly can’t compare to us, 258,00 population ,spending $6.2 million to renovate an existing building, and finally Raymond, N.H. 10,000 population, spending $7.8 million. Raymond N.H. must be using our contractors and our boards. Just a little sampling to make you question…..Kaching, kaching. The Southborough police chief stated BOS meeting, our cruisers were “decrepit” Make due chief.. You should see and hear my car. The chief also stated that he wouldn’t use personal cars for details, because of liability. Excuse me. A cruiser sitting on the side of the road is safer than a car sitting on the side of the road, just sitting. Who comes up with these ridiculous ideas. Use what you must. REPAIR and rotate where you MUST. Enough is enough. In other states police details don’t exist. This became a sweet deal for police in Ma. Stand around while road construction is going on. I’m NOT anti police for sure. Just anti town and police wasteful spending.

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33 beth January 16, 2019 at 12:31 PM

I won’t opine on the public safety project budget or the cruiser.

But I feel compelled to point out that the projects you point to compare apples to oranges:

Norfolk isn’t new construction of a combined police and fire station. It is utilizing a vacant building for a police station with a regional public safety communications center. The Fire department will renovate and expand the police station.

You already noted that Buffalo is a renovation. You also noted the enormous population. You didn’t note that in keeping with fact that it’s a large city, the facility you reference is only the HQ offices. They also have 5 separate police district stations and 18 fire stations.

And I’m confused by the Raymond, NH reference. In 2017 a project to expand the police station was rejected by voters. I can’t find any indication that anything else was done after that.

Again – I’m not arguing that you are wrong (or right). I’m just clarifying for readers the differences in the projects you referenced.

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34 HonestAbespeaks@gmail.com January 16, 2019 at 3:16 PM

Beth, I am comparing equal size and not so equal size towns and pointing out that those other towns USE fiscal constraint, when considering municipal facilities, have a keen interest and respect for the citizens wallets, realize that overbuilding brings many hardships to the taxpayers i.e.elderly, those on fixed incomes. A new cruiser is great, but for $40 k, rehab, rotate, and hold.

35 HonestAbespeaks@gmail.com January 16, 2019 at 3:19 PM

Correction. The police cruiser is $48, 000.

36 Townie January 17, 2019 at 7:12 AM

HonestAbespeaks, I can’t help but notice that your posts are written awfully like a couple other posters on here. All with the same negativity and sourness towards the BOS, the “TAJ”, and every penny that is spent in town.

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37 HonestAbespeaks@gmail.com January 17, 2019 at 1:01 PM

Perhaps, negative, angry, sour. Don’t want my hard earned money (as yours is) taken from me by overspending, careless, wasteful folks. You’ll see soon enough my pretty, when you blow your lid at your tax bill. How about an extra $90,000.00 for epoxy flooring for the “Taj”. Not figured into the budget. You OK with that. Not me. How about an extra $10,000.00 for a TOP OF THE LINE printer, scanner, copier. Gee, we simply must have TOP OF THE LINE. (she said that) suggested by Cathy Cook at Building Committee Meeting Jan. 14, 2019. More added expenses. Showers, equipment lockers. Is this extra also, over the budget.
This isn’t sound government. This is a shame.
Citizen Abe

38 Kelly Roney January 17, 2019 at 3:51 PM

Showers and equipment lockers!? The galling nerve of such a budget request!

LOL.

39 Matthew Brownell January 11, 2019 at 12:39 PM

Concerned Voter –

Interesting post about the new Public Safety building.

I’m far from an expert in construction estimates, but a $26 million price tag seems crazy to me for a ~40,000 square foot building holding approx 130 public employees. . . . especially when you consider that a few years ago, Northborough and Southborough spent about $57 million to renovate an entire Regional High School, serving 2,000 students and a couple hundred employees.

My curiosity on this increased when
– over the Holidays, I had an after hours conversation with a co-worker , who was a former Selectman for the Town of Merrimac, MA. . . a town with 2500 or so fewer people than Southborough .

Merrimac also was in need of a new Public Safety building.
ironically, the initial price tag came out to $26 million, which the voters flatly rejected.
after several more months and rounds of competitive bidding, negotiations and Come-to-Jesus meetings with Merrimac residents and the Town, pencils were sharpened down to somewhere in the $17 million neighborhood.

Perhaps my co-worker is full of it, or has a faulty recollection of facts. But it DID get me thinking on what exactly Southborough’s BOS did to aggressively ensure a competitive bidding environment for a building that ended beyond the pale on expenses to taxpayers.

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40 southsider January 12, 2019 at 6:35 PM

Not trying to pour gasoline on your fire, Matt, but I think that this building is meant to serve ONLY the Police and Fire Departments. I suspect there’ll never be more than 20 or so employees in it at any one time…. nowhere close to the 130 you mention in your comment.

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41 Frank Crowell January 15, 2019 at 8:17 AM

If there is room for 130 people and not all of it being used, how about moving the school admin office there? This would make Neary less worthy of keeping. Reconfigure the schools, domolish Neary and we now have more open space for future use.

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42 Publius January 15, 2019 at 5:26 PM

Merrimac has not build anything yet. And now the proposals are even higher per square foot. The cost of construction has risen greatly in the past 4 or 5 years with all the construction happening it seems everywhere in the country not to mention the tariff talk.
https://www.newburyportnews.com/news/local_news/merrimac-residents-urged-to-attend-police-station-forum/article_50191a2b-9996-570b-b0cb-2fcbd774a977.html

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43 Dan Bradley January 11, 2019 at 9:42 PM

Glad I got out of town when I did in fact we moved out of Tax A Two Sh*ts all together. Any place in North America is cheaper than the Norteast.

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44 Kelly Roney January 13, 2019 at 4:30 PM

Good luck to ya, Dan. Despite trying this fruitlessly in the past, I’ll provide some facts.

Massachusetts is expensive, no doubt. It’s also a high income state. My priority to make Massachusetts better and less expensive would be to make it easier to build middle class housing by relaxing overly restrictive zoning laws.

How does our state and local tax burden stack up against the other states in America? Depends who you ask, probably due to varying methodologies, but we are no longer Taxachusetts (the usual gibe that wasn’t ugly enough for you).

A few links for people who are open to facts:
https://taxfoundation.org/publications/state-local-tax-burden-rankings/ – Mass. is 12th in 2012, with 10.3% of income as taxes and a national average of 9.8%
https://money.cnn.com/pf/features/lists/total_taxes/total.html – Mass. is 40th in 2002, with 9.59% of income paid in all state and local taxes
https://wallethub.com/edu/states-with-highest-lowest-tax-burden/20494/ (who’s this?) – Mass. is 18th in 2018 (allegedly, but I doubt they could have good number in April) with 9.03%

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45 Carl Guyer January 12, 2019 at 11:19 AM

Well, this is what happens when you only think about spending and don’t pay attention to how you can improve your income. Is it a surprise to anyone that you can afford a lot more when you make more? We ask the residential taxpayers to pay a tax rate more then what is paid on 80% of the residential property in the state and then think giving our commercial property tax payers the benefit of only paying more than 25% of their competitors. Add in the high property values here in Southborough and annual tax bills are within the top 30 of the 351 communities in the state. Trying to maintain a subsidy like this can only cause financial heartache for residents.

It was again this year the BOS was treated to a fantasy by the Board of Assessors and their recommendation that a single tax rate is the best tax policy model for the residents of Southborough. Right behind them is our Economic Development Committee championing the fear of change and a misguided belief that a community with relatively high residential property values needs more commercial and industrial development as a means for lowering tax rates.

The Massachusetts Department of Revenue, with it’s online demographic tax data, has ended the time when could not know what other communities do in regard to tax policy. The Genie is out of the bottle, and fumbling along in ignorance or being lead by those working on a belief or agenda is no longer viable.

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46 NEIL ROSSEN January 12, 2019 at 3:37 PM

The bottom line is this. Those who want the boondoggles (like lighting playing fields for the few) and excessive allocations to the schools show up at Town Meeting and vote for it. The rot started years ago with the schools annual increases with reductions in students. Take look at salaries. Our selectmen are in interminable meetings and should be thanked. But the miss the forest for the trees. See how much time is spent on trivial stuff. We don’t really have an effective Town Manager with any teeth. It will get worse. Believe me.

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47 Publius January 12, 2019 at 4:32 PM

Asland looking at $30 million for similar size building. Construction is expensive. Residents demand a safe community with good schools this costs money. Lets be honest some folks may be better off moving. And there is no fiscal bullet. Some have floated dual rate. Dual rate is short sighted. Long term big business gets tax breaks called TIF and DIF and the little pizza shop or auto shop get stuck paying. See Framingham and Worcester for examples. Services cost money.

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48 Carl Guyer January 14, 2019 at 11:18 AM

I am assuming you are expressing an opinion here. The fact is that residential tax payers in split rate communities pay a lower average tax rate than those in single rate communities. Just as another reminder, 78% of the commercial and industrial property resides in split rate communities and amazingly they comprise only 30% of the states 351 communities. That is a 10 fold higher density than exists in single rate communities. By the way, I have the data for Framingham and Worcester and you would be surprised by what is happening there.

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49 SB Resident January 14, 2019 at 11:37 AM

First, Ashland has almost twice the number of households as us, but second and more importantly from MWDN, “The majority of the project’s cost – …- will be paid for through a $25 million state grant allocated from a $3.9 billion bond bill signed by Gov. Charlie Baker in July. Town officials have said that the typical homeowner can expect to see a $30 increase in their tax bills to cover the debt exclusion.” I’d gladly overspend on a project if it was mostly free too! Not one person would be complaining here if we were in their position. How’d they get money for this and we got nothing. PS- No one here is saying construction isn’t expensive, we are complaining that we bought the Bentley when a Toyota would do.

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50 Arborist January 16, 2019 at 6:02 PM

Has any town official looked into a state grant to help pay for another police vehicle? Given the amount of ware and tare that southboro’s police vehicles get on rt 9 it would only make sense. after reading the police log on this site there seems to be some sort of a justification, seeing RT,9 is a state highway the state should do something in return.

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51 Publius January 17, 2019 at 10:55 AM

Every town has a small percentage of the population who are opposed to anything but bares bones spending. Typically the subject of the opposition is the schools and usually it is because this small percentage no longer have school age children. And there is a typically much smaller percentage who would spend without limit. Most of us are in the middle. Southborough is a wonderful town and to maintain what makes Southborough special requires spending on services. Rehashing the public safety building after it has been fully vetted is just a sign of sour grapes. Offering real solutions is hard. Venting on a blog is easy.

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52 Downtown Resident January 17, 2019 at 1:17 PM

Yes, Southborough is a wonderful town. Recently, as I was driving over one of our causeways at dusk, my 17y old son said, “it’s just so pretty.” How fortunate we are to live in a pretty, peaceful and safe town.

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53 Kelly Roney January 17, 2019 at 3:19 PM

Well said, Publius.

And if public comment is the same naysayers saying no over and over again forever, they’re blocking the chance the rest of us should have to give our opinions to town boards.

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54 SB Resident January 17, 2019 at 4:31 PM

I disagree. I don’t think all the people that are upset are only the people that oppose everything. We are building what is the most expensive public safety complex in the state. Our town isn’t anywhere near big enough to have that honor and it demonstrates that your small percentage that would spend without limit are the ones in charge. It is not sour grapes, it’s sadness and anger that the real solutions we must now make are to lose out on other services as a result of that overspending.

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55 beth January 17, 2019 at 4:43 PM

As someone else posted recently, Ashland’s facility’s projected building cost is $30M. So I know that “the most expensive complex in the state” isn’t accurate. (Just correcting that fact. Again, I’m not opining on the project expense one way or the other.)

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56 beth January 17, 2019 at 5:09 PM

I should also point out that some people have been quoting the wrong figure for the building in the comments. The project cost included the money for the land deal – which included the St. Mark’s Golf Course. The building itself was voted at $22.6M and the committee has been working to keep the project below that budget. Currently, they are on track to keep it $3M lower.

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57 NEIL ROSSEN January 17, 2019 at 3:26 PM

So easy to be generous with other people’s money. Fun too. This will continue unless we go to TM and VOTE.

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58 Kelly Roney January 18, 2019 at 12:05 AM

You’re only promised taxation with representation, not the zero taxation you want. In this case, you’re your own representation. If you haven’t shown up, it’s your own fault.

It’s our money, too.

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59 beth January 18, 2019 at 2:46 PM

I haven’t had a chance to catch up on discussions at public safety building meetings. Since I was surprised to see the details you shared about items “Not figured into the budget”, I followed up on your comment with the Chair.

I’ve been informed that they are well under budget by millions. Some of the items you refer to were budgeted for but need to be approved now as opposed to as part of the original bid. Some of these were discussed but not yet voted on. The committee is on record that any “misses” by paid vendors will be dealt with to the extent it is costing us extra money now.

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