Would you support a tax increase next year?

Finance Director Brian Ballantine presented one version of a balanced budget to the Board of Selectmen last night. It was balanced thanks to $233K in cuts to town departments and $841 in cuts to the schools, but it was a budget that would still result in a 4.36% tax increase next year. That’s something Selectman John Rooney said he could not support.

“Given the fiscal reality that the majority of residents are operating under right now, my appetite for a tax increase does not exist this year,” Rooney said.

The budget presented last night also relied on $192K of the $1.3M released earlier this year when telecommunications lawsuits were settled, to offset the operational budget.

But both Rooney and Selectman Bill Boland said they would not support the use of one-time money to fund operational budgets. “It builds a false sense of security for residents that these services will be available, but it’s only a matter of time before the hammer comes down,” Rooney said.

The two selectmen said they want to present voters at town meeting with the option of a 0% increase. Town Assessor Paul Cibelli said doing so would require cutting another $1.4M from the budget.

“You’re looking at massive reductions,” Cibelli told the selectmen. “This is going to be a huge life change here.”

Rooney said he agreed tough cuts would be needed. “The day of reckoning has come,” he said. “At some point, somebody has got to say, ‘We can’t keep spending money we don’t have.”‘

Boland said voters need to be given a choice between no tax increase and maintaining the current level of services. According to town meeting rules, once a budget is published in the warrant it can only be decreased by Town Meeting, not increased.

Rooney said his top priority would be to fully fund police, fire, DPW, and the schools. “Those are the essential town services,” he said. He acknowledge that funding those departments could come at the expense of others.

Town Administrator Jean Kitchen said budgets need to be finalized within a month in order to get the warrant printed up before town meeting on April 11. You can find more budget numbers in this article by the Metrowest Daily News.

So, what do you think? When you show up at town meeting in April, will you vote to increase taxes to fund the services you have now? Or are you willing to make tough cuts to avoid a tax increase? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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John Boiardi
13 years ago

What is so sacrosanct about the student teacher ratio? At a past Advisory Committee meeting it appeared to be a love-in regarding the education provided in Southborough. The Superintendent recieved much praise for the job he and his staff provides. Rightfully so. My issue is–if the school district is providing excellent education with the current student teacher ratio of 22-23 (whatever it is) why are we pushing to reduce it to 20 thereby having to raise taxes to meet that level? The School Committe response was “Southborough wasn’t used to it, e.g. a ratio above 20”. Neither is Southborough used to sky rocketing taxes. The question in my mind is–do I want less firemen and police in order to pay for an illusionary student teacher ratio? I am sure if the ratio were raised that the teaching staff will still provide an excellent education even though they have to work harder. The recent Selectmens meeting talked about “blowing up the budget”. All department budgets have to be redone (decreased). Why should the school budget be exempted? Let’s raise the student teacher ratio to 25 and keep from raising taxes or having to cut public safety budgets.

13 years ago

I would vote for a tax increase but NOT to fund a bloated school system. Our schools need to learn how to do more with less. I am all for a gold-plated school system but have no interest in funding a platimum-plated one. The schools need to tighten their belts and realize that we are all compromising in this economy.

I would fund an increase or level service of fire, police and ambulance services. This year has been an eye-opener as far as how much these services are needed and how much our fire-fighters and police officers do without.

Amen to a 25:1 student:teacher ratio. 20:1 is just ridiculous and something we cannot afford.

Al Hamilton
13 years ago

First, unless there is a revolt on the floor of Town Meeting there will roughly be a 2.5% tax increase. Our budgeting process, for better and worse, assumes that town meeting will approve this. In fact voters are never specifically offered the choice but as we approve budgets we are approving the taxes to pay for them up to the Prop 2.5 limit. So start by assuming there will be a 2.5% tax increase unless there is a major tax revolt.

The question is should we raise the Prop 2.5 limit and increase taxes further. This is where the 1.1 million gap comes into play. There is no good reason to support increase this year. There are at least 2 ways to have all the services desired and not saddle the tax payers with a Prop 2.5 override this this year.

1. Use the “Telecoms” money. This money represents overpayments that each and every tax payer in town made over the last 10 years to cover the possibility that the telecoms suit would not go our way. It did. As a result we have this 1.3 million dollar pool of money. Neither Town Meeting nor the Voters ever authorized the collection of 1.3 million dollars to be put in a kitty to buy something nice down the road. In a fair world this money would be returned to those who overpaid. This is not a fair world and the second best alternative is to use all of it to provide tax relief this year. Neither Town Meeting nor the Voters ever authorized the collection of this money. It should be returned ASAP.

2. Freeze all employees salaries this year. President Obama did this for Federal employees for 2 years. In the private sector over the last few years a 0% raise was a good raise because it meant you still had a job. Freezing public employees salaries would just about close the $1.1 million gap. I believe that Town meeting gets to vote on the labor contracts for the Municipal Unions but not the Schools and I have no confidence that Dr. Gobron will negotiate anything different than the same old thing and the School Committees will rubber stamp the deal.

There are other paths to providing the same or perhaps better service that can save substantial money but they will not be addressed in this (or any other) budget cycle.

John Kendall
13 years ago

It sure would help things if the teacher’s union would follow the firefighter’s lead and increase what they pay for health insurance.

13 years ago

As I have said before, freeze ALL increases, Level fund and do the best we can. Stick to the essentials that someone said above, that means all other services including library and senior center and rec centers all go. And if the teachers dont want to belly up to the table and chip in, screw them. Then BOS has to have a back up becuase Gobron, school committee and all those kids parents will not put up with not having their precious day care centers on strike. Their education is maybe ok but it is far from great.

13 years ago

Ifound this comment on metrowest dailynews – written by prettywoman3 and I couldn’t agree more. “This article should have been titled, ‘ Southborough Selectman ‘blow up’ their own Police Department!’ They want to cut $83,000 from them, while the Fire and DPW are only cut approximately $30,000?? Seems VERY unfair to me. As a resident of Southborough, I’m appalled at the mistreatment this town continues to show towards our police department. Any time I’ve ever come into contact with one of these officers, they have always been courteous, respectful, and helpful to me. They continue to work out of a police station that is overrun with mice, bugs, and asbestos tiles (I’ve witnessed all this through a cub scout tour of the station), This is because the town completely mis-managed the plans, committees, and money spent for a new police station. This town needs to put their foot down when it comes to the outrageous demands of the School Department. Every year their budget rises and rises, while other departments suffer severe cuts. And before you ask, I am not a police officer, nor am I married to one. I even have children in the school system. I’m just upset that every year, our police department pledges their lives to protect us, while we can’t even protect or support them. “

Mike Hanigan
13 years ago
Reply to  John


Maybe they feel the need to cut the proposed budget because it contains too much unexplained overtime. It also contains funding for an additional person so they can create a Lieutenants position.

This is all about trying to find out what the “real” numbers really are not picking on any one department.

I agree with you that the police officers I have met in this town have always been very professional and friendly.

13 years ago
Reply to  Mike Hanigan

How do you know the overtime is “unexplained?” I have been at BOS meetings during which the Chief does explain it. The department is down, I believe, two officers for several reasons (that was before the two resignations) and the overtime allows shifts to be covered without hiring more officers, which would cost the town dearly in benefits and such. The overtime is actually a cost-saving solution the way I heard it. Also, even with overtime, the department is significantly overworked at this point. Overtime is not just an extra hour here and there, it is mandatory additional shifts for people who get little enough down-time as it is. It is called “mandatory orvertime,” I would gather, because officers are not lining up out the door asking for additional shifts. What does that say about how overworked out department is. Is will only get worse with more budget cuts. Is this the level of protection you want for your family and property? I suspect the fire department is in the same boat. Police, fire and ambulance can’t keep taking the cuts. The schools need to do their part. It’s about time. I’m with prettywoman3. Wish she were posting over here!

Mike Hanigan
13 years ago

Mr Rooney-

Are you quoted correctly here: “Rooney said his top priority would be to fully fund police, fire, DPW, and the schools. “Those are the essential town services,” he said. He acknowledge that funding those departments could come at the expense of others.”

If that is correct, I would ask that you simply add up the total budgets of these 4 organizations and I’ll bet you that comes close to 90% of the town budget. (I think the schools are 70%) There is no chance whatsoever of balancing any budget unless substantial cuts are applied to the big 4.

Let’s start with the new vehicles requested by the fire and police departments. That alone is more than $100,000! Can’t we put that off for another year?

13 years ago

Dear Agreed, Exercise your second amendment right and get a firearm for your home. You will sleep well. Just a low caliber handgun becasue a high calibur hand gun like a 45 will actually go through walls. A shot in the air is a great deterent. Check Kennesa County Georgia and their crime rate. And a dog is a very good first line of defense. Burgalars always flee a barking dog. And leave your music on when you are not home to fool them as well. Who said the police are supposed to protect you anyway? That is your job to protect yourself and your family. I agree the police force does a great job and if they are overworked then we should not force them to work so much for any reason. I have a great idea for our police department. Start actually stopping and issuing tickets for speeding, not stopping as stop signs et… $100-300 a pop times 50 tickets a week is roughly $500 a week. Quite a bit of money. And that is whats inportnat to me. Safe and curteous drivers who actually follow current laws.

13 years ago
Reply to  mike

Thanks for the laugh mike. A good way to start the day! :)
Ticketing is a great idea but your math is wrong. $100-300 a pop times 50 tickets a week is roughly $5000-$15000 a week. While they’re at it, could they PLEASE start ticketing all the pople who talk on their mobiles or text while driving? That could bring in a small fortune!

John Boiardi
13 years ago

The superintendant proposed a .5 % increase in the budget. He has done a great job cutting back on peripheral accounts but has not made sufficient reductions, in my opinion, in the key driver of the budget, personnel. Did he cut the 9 people he said he had to in order to meet the current budget? I don’t mean retirements or leaves of absence which are replaced. I mean actual reductions in staff. When the student teacher ratio is computed is it based on students divided by teachers with classrooms? Are the teachers that don’t have a classroom but flloat between schools (art, gym,music,whatever) included in the ratio? If only classroom teachers are included in the calculation it inflates the ratio. What about cutting ‘Professional days”? I know there will be a hue and cry but the dollar savings may save jobs. What about freezing step and lane increases. Again, maybe no raise is traded for keeping your job. How about teachers contibuting to theiir medical and retirement at the same level as those in the private sector. Back to school committe meetings. Do they ask these questions? All i have gathered from the few meetings I have observed is both parties speaking the language of “educate ese”. Other town departments and the public safety departments have to make CUTS! They would be happy to have a .5 % increase. Does the school committee understand a $1.5 million shortfall in the towns budget?.

13 years ago

What is the date of town meeting?

(Random question, yet somewhat pertintnet)

bob a
13 years ago

Time for pay cuts or layoffs

Any municipal employee:

over 100k 10% pay cut
50k-100k 5% pay cut
under 50k no pay cut

If the unions don’t agree then lay off employees until the desired dollar amount is reached.

The police, fire, dpw and school employees are great, but can we afford to continue the spending?

13 years ago
Reply to  bob a

Perhaps another “random” question. I thought I read in a Personnel Board agenda recently about the town employee salary “step” system being revised and approved. Can anyone find out if this is just an administrative way to give out selective raises this year? Will ANY employee salaries actually go UP in 2012??? If so, there should be some serious discussions about that before April 11. Those at the highest pay scales should be accepting cuts as “bob a” suggests above.

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