Town Meeting Update: Projected tax increase and PILOT news (Updated)

by Beth Melo on May 20, 2021

Post image for Town Meeting Update: Projected tax increase and PILOT news (Updated)

Annual Town Meeting is in two days. So, it’s past time to update readers on the proposed budgets. In related news, I’m also sharing an announcement on PILOT promises from the two big private schools in town.

Last night, the Advisory Committee supported the version of the budget approved by Board of Selectmen on Tuesday. It is different from the version included in the meeting’s Warrant. So, expect some amendments to be proposed by selectmen at the meeting.

Yesterday, the Town posted the updated budget in a letter to Town Meeting. This afternoon, Advisory’s Chair shared the Committee’s report to Town Meeting.

If budget and capital requests are approved by voters, Advisory projects a 3.19% increase in property taxes. But, the committee would prefer voters think of it as averaged out to lower increase over two years:

The average tax increase to a Southborough resident for FY 21 was a very low 1.33% due in large part to the elimination of certain capital expenditure from the FY 21 budget that are now included in the FY 22 budget recommendation.  Advisory would suggest that the average estimated tax increase over both FY 21 and FY 22 is a better metric than looking at each year’s standalone increase due to the postponement of capital expenses from FY 21 to FY 22. The average tax increase over the two-year pandemic period is 2.26% per year. 

The report gives their perspective on the Town’s finances and outlook. It includes context for the budget, especially the need for increased investment in Management Information Systems/Technology and the Board of Health.

Meanwhile, the BOH posted its own documents to the Town website defending their requested budget increase. In framing the need for increased staffing and resources, a presentation explains:

The Board of Health’s staffing and budget have not increased in pace with the increased demands on the Department. When our FT health director retired, he agreed to work part- time until we were able to hire a new FT health director. That was almost 10 years ago! Although the statutory and regulatory demands have increased substantially, our staffing and budget have not!

Being understaffed and underfunded has been a long-term problem. Although exacerbated by the pandemic, our current issues were NOT caused by the pandemic

A compromise was finally reached this week after months of back and forth between BOH, the BOS and Advisory. The parties agreed to strategies that should help the Public Health Dept get the resources and staffing levels they pushed for in Fiscal Year 2022 without increasing their ask even more than the final budget. Strategies included ways to allow the Town to seek federal reimbursements for some of the board’s expenses.*

Advisory’s report also explains why they are urging voters to adopt a local meals tax and approve changes to bylaws on their committee.

The Finance Team’s Budget Letter includes two listed capital items under Article 14 that it looks like taxpayers won’t need to fund after all.

Following up on his promise to Town Meeting last year, Marty Healey made an announcement at Tuesday’s Board of Selectmen meeting about expected PILOT payments. He told the Board that St. Mark’s School committed to pay $18,000 for the Police Department’s Defibrillators. In addition, the school will split the cost with Fay School to fund the Fire Department’s requested $40,000 for Turnout Gear in FY22. 

St. Mark’s has committed to cover half of the Turnout Gear for three years. According to Healey, Fay School seemed amenable to that but has only committed to the first year so far. 

The new donations are in addition to other PILOT contributions the schools already committed to for the next fiscal year.

There is no Budget Book this year. To learn more about the departments covered by the budget docs, you might turn to the Annual Report for 2020 here. You can also find more detail on the Southborough and Regional school budgets and their budget books here.

Additionally, the Budget Letter provides some overall context for budgets. In it the Town Administrator and Finance Director state: 

I have encouraged the Town to be mindful of the following major financial policy objectives:

  • Conservative Forecasting & Budgeting
  • Creating a Sustainable Budget Model
  • Increasing Revenues and Managing Expenses
  • Building Reserves
  • Leveraging Grant Assistance
  • Investing in Town Infrastructure

In the FY22 Budget, we will continue to build upon our efforts in these areas, while also focusing on increasing outside funding, such as grants, obtaining technical assistance, and adding key
personnel. Balancing the funding resources versus service requests continues to be an ongoing challenge. . .

This budget message and accompanying overall budget is the culmination of hundreds of hours of collaboration between Town Department Heads, School Department, Capital Committee,
Advisory Committee, Board of Selectmen and all other boards, committees, and commissions. Our collaborative approach to the budget process allows for the sharing of ideas and strategy,
resulting in an improved end-result that best serves the needs of the community. This budget addresses the diverse and varied needs of our community, while being mindful of the financial
position of Southborough’s taxpayers.

You can continue to look for the Town to post more handouts/presentations for Town Meeting here. For my past and ongoing coverage, click here.

Updated (5/21/21 8:13 am): I inserted a link to my coveage of the schools’ budgets back in early April. 

*Strategies for the Board of Health budget include having the Board of Assessors continue to split the salary for an administrative assistant. The Assessor has promised to allow BOH to use as many of the admin’s hours as needed. That will allow the Town to seek reimbursement from the federal government for the “extra” hours the admin works in the health department.

1 A Day Late and a Dollar Short! May 21, 2021 at 9:59 AM

Gee Beth – thanks for posting the article 1 day before the Town Meeting, then claiming it’s 2 days away.

How about conflict of interest when a BOS member is a BOH member? As for the BOH funding, where was it when the most at risk Southborough residents needed their vaccinations? Absent!

BOS member Healey finally comes forward with a PILOT update, 1 day ahead of the Town Meeting. It sounds as though St. Mark’s School will contribute about the same as 4 homeowner’s provide to the town in taxes. How much land does this school occupy? $22M in contributions recently received? And Fay remains mostly noncommittal beyond this year.

Nice.

That result took a full year to negotiate?

Please do not try to insult taxpayer’s intelligence by asking us to buy into some averaging shell-game you’re playing with a proposed tax increase of 3.19%!

NO!

No Budget Book? How convenient!

It doesn’t matter whether tens or hundreds of hours were spent by various town departments all trying to grab their piece of the pie, the end result is the same – collusion among town departments with NOBODY looking out for the taxpayer.

Is greed good? Does Gordon Gekko now sit on Advisory, the BOS and Finance? It certainly looks that way!

And finally, how does 3.19% fit with Prop. 2 1/2? Sounds like more BS to me…

2 beth May 21, 2021 at 10:55 AM

The post was yesterday

Previous post:

Next post: