If you’ve been reading the blog these past two days — and if you were at Town Meeting yourself — you already know that voters rejected nearly all attempts to further trim town budgets. What that means is your taxes are going to be higher next year, but how much higher?
Town Meeting approved a $44.4M budget for fiscal year 2012, with $41.7M of that to be raised through taxes. Finance Director Brain Ballantine says that translates to a tax increase of 2.4 percent, which means the average family will pay $191 more in taxes next year. Of course, the amount you will actually pay depends on the value of your home.
The 2.4 percent increase is pretty close to the 2.3 percent increase proposed by selectmen, but how we got there is quite different from how they recommended we do it. Selectmen arrived at their number by cutting an additional $570K from the schools and offsetting some costs with $400K from the town’s overlay reserve fund.
Voters soundly rejected proposals by both the selectmen and the Advisory Committee to trim the school budget. Instead they opted to fully-fund the schools, and use more than twice the amount recommended by selectmen from the overlay fund to help maintain town roads and pay for educational incentives for police officers, among other things.
Notably, Town Meeting voted to use $445K of the overlay money toward the town’s debt payment for the year.
Selectman John Rooney argued against spending the money on a recurring expense like debt retirement. “I compare our town’s past management practices to a heroin addict,” he said. “The town has been addicted to one-time revenue sources to fund operational budgets, and because of that, we’re not in a position to weather the state financial crisis.”
In total, voters decided to use $861K from the overlay reserve fund. That leaves just over $313K left untouched in the fund. The town will get the option of spending that money next year.