Annual Town Meeting Update: Voters will be asked to approve 3.82% to 4.5% tax increase (Updated)

According to the Town’s Treasurer, Articles Southborough voters will be asked to support could trigger up to a 4.5% increase in taxes.

The update was made at last Tuesday’s Board of Selectmen meeting. Brian Ballentine gave what should be the “final, final” budget to selectmen.

Ballentine summed up for Selectmen and Advisory members what the new budget and additional articles means for taxpayers. Articles to approve operating budgets, capital expenses, and other general Town expenses will mean a 3.82% tax increase.

But additional articles will ask voters to fund beyond that. If approved, Ballentine said they would likely mean another .6% increase. He estimated the final increase at 4.4 – 4.5% or maybe lower if “values come in good next year”. (I’m presuming he’s referring to interest rates on bonds taken out to fund projects over a longer term.)

One article will request funds needed to re-open the Golf Course Club house for management operations. (You can read more about that in past coverage.) Another will ask to fund looking into a Senior Center expansion. (Read about that here.)

Three others will ask for a total of over $1M to fund repairs, design and permitting work on Town fields and the running track at Trottier. Stay tuned for a post on last week’s presentation by the Recreation Commission.

You can also learn more at Rec’s public forum on the articles. They plan to hold that Monday, March 26th at Senior Center. (In the meantime, you can get learn more about the needs driving Rec’s projects from my December post.)

As, I’ve shared in the past, the Advisory Committee got involved at a much earlier stage in the budget process than past years. Chair Adrian Peters told selectmen last week, that he was happy with those results. By engaging early on, he said they avoided scrambling to go through budgets at the end.

Hopefully, they have also avoided conflicts over the operating and capital budgets. Last year, Town officials, selectmen and Advisory held tense negotiations over the budgets late in the process. Budget articles had to be amended at Town Meeting since they didn’t make the printed Warrant.

This year, Advisory already voted to approve an earlier budget, prior to recent “tweaks”. Since then, the biggest revision was lowering of the Regional School assessment by $25K.

The other notable change was an increase to the Conservation Commission budget. Selectmen previously voted that the commission will co-hold the Conservation Restriction for the golf course. In the earlier budget update, the board questioned not including a related increase for staff hours. In the latest version, the Conservation Commissioner was allotted an extra hour per week. Ballentine said that next year they can assess how that worked out and what the CR’s actual impact was.

Peters told selectmen that he had suggested the ConCom increase and worked with Ballentine. But he warned that the committee had yet to vote on it. Advisory planned to vote on the new budget and other Warrant Article positions in their next meeting.*

The Advisory Chair told indicated he still sees room for more process improvements. He said that next year, he’d like to do more work on the Capital Budget. He hopes to be able to show voters what will be coming down the road over the next 10 years.

The Town’s Capital Plan was referenced in prior budget updates and later that evening. Town Administrator Mark Purple explained to selectmen that the Town tries to queue up projects so that the Capital Budget doesn’t greatly fluctuate year to year. That is why many needed projects get pushed to future years. And it’s why he wasn’t able to add the FY19 projects sought by Recreation to this year’s Capital Plan. It would have meant preempting other projects already in the queue.

Recreation’s master plan does include additional future expenses. But those are now integrated into the long term Capital Plan.

As for this year’s budgets, the final say goes to Town Meeting voters. The Annual Town Meeting is scheduled to open on Monday, April 9, 2018, at 7:00 pm, in the Trottier Middle School Auditorium. And there’s decent reason to hope it will wrap-up that same night.

*Advisory’s next meeting was scheduled for last week, but was snowed out. The Committee is trying to make that meeting up this week. But another storm is threatening to interfere with this week’s schedule. Confined by rules on public notice, the board already hedged its bets by posting two potential meetings for the same agenda on Tuesday and Wednesday night.

If those nights don’t work, it’s unlikely to be moved to Thursday night. March 15th is “Southborough UNScheduled”, which is meant to be used for family quality time. Selectmen adopted the annual date, promising Youth and Family Services that public meetings wouldn’t be held that evening.

Updated (3/13/18 12:41 pm): I initially forgot to include the Senior Center Warrant Article.

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Carl Guyer
6 years ago

In 2017 Southborough’s residential real estate tax rate was greater than the rate paid on 79% of the residential property in the state. Amazingly, our commercial tax rate was less than that paid on 75% of the commercial and industrial property in the state. Our residents pay at a rate higher than their peers, while our commercial interests in town pay at a rate lower than their peers. I know this is difficult for many to accept as true, but it is just that.

Our high residential vs. low commercial tax rate condition is justified year after year by the dogmatic repeating of a proposition that is just not true. It is the mythical belief that forcing our residential and commercial tax rates to be single tax rate is a fair tax policy. Unfortunately, constraining tax rates in this manner is at odds with statewide demographics. This annual single tax rate mandate creates an automatic discounting of commercial tax rates. It is a simple mathematical certainty. Remove the single rate constraint, practical questions about statewide norms will have to be asked and more reasonable tax policies will naturally be implemented. The single tax rate mandate is now costing the average Southborough residential taxpayer between $1,000 and $2,000 each year. This annual decision by the Board of Selectman to enact a single tax rate is the most significant decision they make each year. It is time we implemented a tax policy similar to that used for taxing 78% of the commercial property in Massachusetts. A truly fair tax policy is would not be advantageous to some at the expense of others.

SB Resident
6 years ago
Reply to  Carl Guyer

It is also worth pointing out that now that the SALT (state and local tax) federal tax deduction is now capped at 10K, that 1-2K is no longer tax deductible for the vast majority of us, which makes overpaying that 1-2K hurt that much more.

marcel proust
6 years ago

Could someone please tell me what percent of Southborough families have kids who use the playing fields?

This is a stiff tax hike, and I wonder how many families will get the benefit of the tax money spent on playing fields.

6 years ago

I don’t use the town fields, I don’t use the senior center, I don’t use the school and I would never use the golf course. I am all for having “things” if you can afford them but the BOS is taxing people out of this town. I have been here for 27 years and it gets harder and harder to justify living here. Some will say, well just move, but it isn’t that easy. We need somebody to pull in the reigns and stop the excessive spending.

6 years ago

This is an absolute no. They use the excuse of fields and the kids but hold the commercial tax rate for who else you guessed it the real person running the town in Capital Group. He saves millions while we subsidize through taxes. Don’t fall for their lies.

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