Annual Town Meeting: Advisory Report & Budget Articles (Updated)

Above: The Advisory Committee issued its Annual Report for Town Meeting voters. (image cropped from document)

The Advisory Committee asked me to make its annual report to Town Meeting voters available to readers. (You can read that in full here.) 

The document is particularly helpful in understanding the short term financial impact of spending Articles on the Warrant. I’ll also share some highlights from the Committee’s opinions on other Articles on the Warrant.

Spending increases are low, but tax impacts are higher

The report highlights that the combined operating budget and spending Articles only represent a 2.2% increase in Town spending for Fiscal Year July ’23 – June ’24 (the same as last year’s increase):

In this inflationary environment and economy, we feel it is quite an accomplishment to keep the modest budget increase below that of the rate of inflation. Thank you to all the various Town boards, committees, department heads, and the finance team that worked hard to accomplish this goal while not sacrificing any services for residents.

However, the overall budget increase is 3.3%. (Chair Andrew Pfaff confirmed for me that is due to the projected revenue increase of 1.2% being smaller than the increased expenses.)

Worse for homeowners in Southborough, the residential tax increase is projected to be higher. The current, conservative projection is a tax increase of 5.9% for the average homeowner. 

That is based on the continuing trend of residential property values increasing in relation to commercial property values. (Commercial property value is projected to discrease by 4%.) That again shifts more of the tax levy burden to homeowners. (The report makes clear that the projected tax impacts are estimated and can’t really be known this early in the year.)

All of these projections are based on voters passing most of the Town sponsored non-borrowing Articles on the Warrant that include funding. [Editor’s Note: See my update on the Tree Maintenance Fund.]*

(Advisory’s projections don’t cover Article 36, a Citizen Petition that seeks to add $18K for funding driver feedback signs on Parkerville Road.)

Budget Drivers – Salaries & Schools

The report points to salary increases for Town employees as the most significant driver. That is mainly under Collective Bargaining Agreements. Of course, CBAs also impact the school budgets, and:

The most significant individual Town department budget will always be the K-12 school system. The cost of operating the entire public school system represents 65% of the total Town budget. Both school districts proposed reasonable year-over-year budget increases for FY24 – 3.50% for K-8 and 3.51% for Algonquin.

Helping from the revenue side is the local meal tax, expected to bring in about $120K this fiscal year. (The committee notes that they had successfully advocated for adding that revenue stream to offset property taxes.)

You can read the Town budgets here. You can find the Southborough Schools and Northborough-Southborough Regional school budget documents here.

Capital Articles

Town Treasurer Brian Ballantine helped me understand the figures in Advisory’s Report for spending Articles. In addition to the FY24 Budget (Article 5), the figures cover:

“Budget Articles” total $313K (mistakenly listed as $323K). The biggest chunk is Article 17, $250K for the Annual Appropriation for OPEB Trust Fund, to put towards liabilities for retiree benefits down the road. The other Articles are for annual funds to cover foreseeable expenses: 

  • Article 11: For Hiring Consultants as needed – $25K
  • Article 18: To cover Insurance Deductibles – $10K
  • Article 19: Payment to Retirees for Accrued Leave Time – $28K

A bigger bucket is  $1,277,735 for “Capital Articles”. Some of these are covered by sources other than direct tax appropriations (like the ambulance fund). But I’m told that those corresponding fund sources are also reflected in the other side of the balance sheet under revenues.

The most controversial will be Article 13, $250K for the St. Mark’s St park. That shouldn’t move forward if Article 12 fails to pass the related land swap. But if it doesn’t, that could have an associated cost that isn’t covered in Articles — reimbursing the state for the $290K project grant. (You can read more about that in my related coverage here – and stay tuned for an update.)

  • Article 7: Capital Items:
       A. Road Maintenance – $400K
       B. Sidewalk Maintenance – $50K
       C. Library Security Cameras – $15K
       D. Police Cruisers – $148K (scheduled rotation to replace two front-line cruisers with two hybrid utility vehicles)
       E. Fire Dept, Durable Medical Equipment – $20K
       F. Fire Dept, Ambulance Power Stretcher – $55K (scheduled replacement of a hydraulic cot used in the ambulance)
       G. Fire Dept, PPE – $20K (scheduled replacement of protective clothing to protect firefighters from heat, chemicals, and other exposures)
  • Article 8: Portable Radios for Police & Fire Departments (42 units) $448K
  • Article 10: Annual payments on leased Town vehicles:
       A. Ambulance -$57,191
       B. DPW Hook Lift Truck – $25,037
       C. DPW Pick Up Diesel – $10,622
       D. Fire Chief Vehicle – $8,422
  • Article 16: Paving of Parkerville Road – $99,008 (This is actually covered by funds provided by the gas company that did line improvements on the road. But the Town has to use up the “Free Cash” first, then use Eversource Funds to to replenish the account.)
  • Article 20: Facilities Maintenance Fund – $100K

Also on the list was $19,455 for the taser/Body camera program. But Ballantine tells me that is under the Police Budget, not a separate Article.

Article Opinions

The report explains their unanimous support for the official St. Mark’s Park project Articles (12 & 13).

It offers a more restricted support for the biggest financial ask on the agenda. The Committee supports Article 14 to apply $250K of Community Preservation Act (CPA) Funds to the GonkPlex project — the capital improvements to Algonquin Regional High School’s athletic fields and outdoor facilities.

But all but one member would like to table Article 15 to authorize bonding the rest of the shared $7,960,393 regional expense.

Instead, the Committee would like an Article to come back to Town Meeting in the Fall, to triple the CPA surcharge on tax bills. They argue that using only the 1% surcharge shortchanges opportunities for cost sharing with the state. They want to increase it to 3%, to increase the fund and the state match. Then, after also increasing the amount of CPA funds dedicated to the project, they would support bonding the rest of the expense.

The Committee does support withdrawing from the agreement for the Regionalized dispatch services center in Westborough. But it offers a general cautionary against the increased use of Citizen Petition Article that are non-binding:

While we would never try to prevent any citizen from bringing forth a warrant article, we have seen an uptick in the number of non-binding articles that are advisory only in nature, with the purpose of asking/instructing another Town entity to do or act upon something. Many of these topics are complex and controversial and may require much discussion during an already lengthy meeting. We suggest that proponents meet with the authorities they wish to instruct prior to submitting a warrant article via a citizen’s petition. We believe many of these issues can and should be addressed outside of a Town Meeting. 

You can read more detail on that and other opinions, including their support of a few additional Articles, in the report. It also includes more context on long term planning and their advice for improving future budget planning.

Again, you can read the full report here.

Updated (3/23/23 12:29 pm): I had incorrectly listed Article 11 funding for consultants as lower than the $25,000 it asks for.

*Updated (3/23/23 2:41 pm): I initially wrote that Advisory’s table doesn’t cover Article 28, the Tree Maintenance Fund for $30K. That’s correct, but it doesn’t need to. The motion for that Article will ask for previously allocated FY23 funds to be transferred for spending in FY24, rather than raising the funds through new tax appropriations.

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Kathy Cook
1 year ago

Article 11 – hiring consultants, etc. -is $25,000 not $10,000 as your post indicates.

Kathy Cook

David Parry
1 year ago

Article 13 — The “park” at St Marks Rd. SIX – 6 – SOLID Reasons to Vote “NO”.

ARTICLES 12 and 13 are a wedded couple. Both need to be DEFEATED, because they are NOT necessary and are literally born out of corrupt actions that constitute a public SCANDAL that never should have happened. They should now be buried and apologized for, and those responsible should be fired (if they haven’t already resigned).

The origin of BOTH articles, (12 the road, and 13 the park), goes back to our former DPW Sup Karen Galligan, who was FORCED to resign by her ineffective boss, Mark Purple, in 2022. Purple could not contain the. burgeoning scandal any further. After 20 years of autocratic rule , Galligan had finally created a true monster … the “St Marks Rd Project”, which was corrupt in so many different ways. It was called “The Straw That Broke The Camel’s Back”. She resigned in disgrace four months ago … when more instances of CORRUPTION WERE BEING DISCOVERED.

WHAT WAS DISCOVERED ? This project did NOT start with St Mark officials openly and publicly asking the Town — “What will it take for the Town to provide St Marks with a site for a bigger parking lot ?:…Instead, the request came at small, ptivate meetings, essentially secretly.

Because of lack of public “over-sight” during the Covid years of 2020 and 2021 (when there no public review meetings), Galligan not only conceived /created the road scheme , but also pushed it through the Select Board. So we end up with a costly road project having NO public purpose, but instead a PRIVATE purpose … to benefit her Alma Mater — St Marks School . Galligan is an alumnus of St Marks and therefore had an official Conflct of Interest, meaning she should NEVER have participated in this project. But she DID, and then her contacts at St Marks took advantage and DIRECTLY ASKED HER (according to engineering consultants who were present) that the existing road should be rerouted, so as to create space for a NEW PARKING LOT, FOR THE SOLE USE OF THE SCHOOL … and Galligan delivered right on cue. Lets call this what it really is … CORRUPTION. And this instance, of the Parking Lot, is just one of at least four instances in which gift/favors were delivered to St Marks School, “free of cost” or nearly so, by Galligan.

ALMOST FREE OF COST — TO ST MARKS, but not free of cost to the Town … The Town spent almost a half million dollars in 2021 and 2022 installing underground drainage pipes, and also doing tree cutting and land clearance in advance of constructing the new by-pass road … to replace the existing St Marks Rd which will have to be abandined to make way for the new parking lot for St Marks School.

There is nothing seriously wrong with the existing St Marks Rd. So there is no legitimate reason why this perfectly good public should be abandoned … It is NOT a sufficient reason for St Marks to claim a need fkr a bigger parking lo

It was largely rebuilt at the intersection by the previous DPW Sup John Boland. The sight distance is now excellent, after they cut down the tall bushes blocking the view to the south. In fact, the existing intersection is greatly SUPERIOR to the proposed intersection in terms of “sight distance”, because the proposed intersection has two beautiful, giant oak trees to both the north and south, with both blocking views of vehicles. Finally, there is no longer any storm “flooding” at the intersection (which was actually CAUSED by St Marks, because they built a stone wall in the road right-of-way). This flooding was never serious but it has now been completely resolved by Galligan herself … when she ordered her DPW to onstruct, at Town expense, new 12 inch storm drains under Rt 85. (The proper catch basin “lids” need to be inserted into the manhole covers, to let the water flow through).

Article 12 is an attempt to finish the unneeded new road and private parking lot, requiring the “Land Swap” and the “discontinuance” of the existingl St Marks Rd. (Dis- continuance equals ABANDONMENT.)

WHY are they asking us to ABANDON this perfectly good road? The justification cannot be the fake excuse of “flooding” at the intersection, because flooding has been resolved. The ugly truth is that the road is being abandoned in order to provide for St Marks wishes … for a new private parking lot over top of our public road !


1. THE PARK IS IN THE WRONG LOCATION. It was not supposed to be at this isolated intersection, where nobody lives. Once again, this was Galligan’s unilateral demand — that the park be up there at her new intersection.

BUT WHY DID GALLIGAN WANT THE PARK TO BE SITUATED UP THERE, IN THAT ISOLATED LOCATION, NEAR THE HEAVILY TRAFFICKED ROAD — RT85 ? … Simple answer … it was supposed to “dress up” the ugly new intersection, and make the entire project more justifiable. The State wanted the Park to be situated in (1) a real neighborhood and also (2) somewhere along the State’s previous State project … the MAIN St Reconstruction Project.

2. THE PARK FUNDING WAS CORRUPTED. Galligan got a grant for $290.000 from State DOT. That money was SUPPOSED to be used for a Park and a sidewalk. But … you guessed it … Galligan and Purple spent ALL the funds on their proposed By-Pass road, and on the future St Marks parking lot. As a result, the State Inspector General opened an investigation, which has still not completed. Mark Purple was (and still is) equally responsible , with Galligan; for this MIS-spending.

3. ANOTHER, BETTER LOCATION IS PREFERRED BY THE STATE … AS a result of the Town’s mis-spending,. the State DOT inspectors were (understandably) furiously angry. They are demanding that Southborough must deliver on a completed Park, but NOT necessarily this year and NOT necessarily at this location … because the State recognizes that the “Galligan site” can be considered unsuitable as well as UNSAFE (being next to a BUSY HIGHWAY Rt 85). The State is not being unreasonable. They may be open to accepting a new Southboroughi suggestion for a better, safer location provid it is tied to a State Road Project … preferably somewhere along the “Main Street Corridor”… that is within say 100 feet of Main St, within the 3/4 mile corridor …SO THERE YOU HAVE IT …NOT 8N THE REMOTE ST MARKS TRIANGLE !!

4. THE HURDLE THE TOWN FACES IS SELF- CREATED — BY ITS CORRUPT OFFICIALS. This has become increasingly obvious. GALLIGAN has thankfully resigned. But Purple is equally responsible. Some would argue — more responsible. He was and is manipulator in chief. He was her boss.m and he protected her for twenty long year, until she finally went too far — on the St Marks Rd Project . That became the poster child for corruption which nobody can deny. Too much heat even for “teflon” Purple. REMOVING ALL THE CORRUPT TOWN OFFICIALS IS BOTH NECESSARY AND FREEING.


THESE CLAIMS ARE “NOT WORTH THE PAPER THEY ARE PRINTED ON” — they are deliberate lies designed to fabricate yet another FAKE justification for this scandalous project, which has no legitimate “public” purpose.

All flooding at the library was completely and permanently solved by millions of dollars spent in about 2016 … courtesy of the State “Main St Reconstruction Project”… under which huge pipes were installed under the Library parking lot.

What is truly extraordinary (and kind of sad) is the extent to which the few remaining friends of Galligan (like the present Chair of the Library Board of Trustees) will dare go in their outright FANTASTIC LIES … claiming the St Marks contractor recently excavated the ground and “saw” an underground “stream” north of the Library parking lot, and “fed” the stream water into a new drainpipe. This brazen lie has been repeated and repeated again, even on TV, until some voters may come to believe it to be true. But it is NOT true. It is a fantasy of one person who likes Karen Galligan and her pet project. It has nothing to to with the St Marks Rd Project or Park … which will have zero effect on flooding ar the library.

Remember that 12 inch diameter drains have re ently been installed under Rt 85, starting uphill at the St Mark Rd intersection. Plus new catch basins down Rt 85. Plus new road curbs to prevent water run ing into the Library parking lot. All these, plus the 2016 Main St drainage work; will prevent flooding at the Library.

( IMPORTANT SIDE NOTE FROM ME; AS AN ARCHITECT … RELATING TO FAULTY LIBRARY BUILDING ENTRY DESIGN …. . The side entrance to the Library is very poorly designed. There SHOULD BE AT LEAST A SIX INCH DIFFERENCE IN ELEVATION BETWEEN THE LEVEL OF THE THRESHOLD AT THE DOOR, AND THE LEVEL OF THE ASPHAL DRIVEWAY OUTSIDE. . … But in actual fact, there is NO difference in elevation. This is such an elementary design error. The asphalt and catchbasins need to be excavated down six inches across a wide area; immediately outside the side entrance … Library Trustees please take note!. One day the drain screens will get blocked with leaves, and the rainwater will not be able to drain into the pipes below…THEN YOU WILL HAVE FLOODING …. But once again … . Please do not confuse this issue of local drainage, with distant drainage at the St Marks Rd Project or Park. They are separate projects with independent drainage.

6. LASTLY …THE SITE FOR THE PARK WILL BE NEEDED SOON FOR EXPANSION OF THE LIBRARY PARKING LOT. Need I say more.? This is so blindingly obvious …You don’t want spend $250,000 on a park, only to demolish it in 5 years time … because you forgot you needed to expand the Library parking lot at the same location !


David Parry
1 year ago

Editor, you correct me, but in doing so you are factually incorrect yourself. Let me explain , because this matter needs explanation… and it needs ACTION at the Library itself.

Your correction is not only in error, but
it has the UNintentional result of leading readers to believe that the exterior, underground drainage system at the Library is inadequate. Residents can ask the expert John Parent , Facilities Manager, because he is responsible for dealing with flooding at all Town buildings … NOT just the Library.

You mention the interior Library floods of 2018 and another more recent event. But these two interior floods were NOT caused by inadequate exterior drains , installed under the parking lot (paid for by the Main St Reconstruction Plan ending in about 2018). The interior floods were CAUSED BY THE FAULTY ARCHITECTURAL DESIGN OF THE SIDE ENTRANCE INTO THE LIBRARY.

I see now that this is quite technical. so it has become necessary to spell out this basic design lesson, because it applies to the design of ALL entryways into ALL buildings … including a house. But it is especially important in buildings situated in low, sunken areas, such as the Library. Here is the detailed architectural lesson … about design of building entryways … to prevent interior flooding ;


The side entrance to the Library is very poorly designed. There SHOULD BE AT LEAST A SIX INCH DIFFERENCE IN ELEVATION BETWEEN TWO ELEMENTS:



What is the design at the Library ?

At the Library — there is … get this … NO difference in elevation between outside and inside … it is DEAD LEVEL. INSIDE AND OUTSIDE … so therefore rainwater simply flows from outside to inside !

This is such an elementary design error. The exterior asphalt driveway, (especially ncluding the drain catchbasin lids). need to be excavated DOWN at least six — 6 — inches across a wide area, immediately outside the side entrance … LIBRARY TRUSTEES PLEASE TAKE NOTE!

One day SOON, AGAIN, the narrow openings at the top surface of the metal drain lids (grills or screens) will certainly get BLOCKED by leaves and debris … thus preventing rain water from entering into the drain pipes below ground. Once the drains are blocked, the water level will rise, and flow into the Librzry!

So you are definitely going to have more interior floiding at the Library … AGAIN, AND AGAIN … UNTIL THE DESIGN OF THE ENTRYWAY HAS BEEN FIXED.

BUT READERS … PLEASE AVOID CONFUSING THIS PARTICULAR ISSUE …. OF LOCAL FLOODING DUE TO ARCHITECTURAL DESIGN ERROR … with the very different issues of AREA-WIDE flooding , or drainage at the St Marks Rd Project, or Park. They are entirely separate projects. with independent drainage.

Thank you , editor, for allowing me to clarify this important point about flooding at our precious Library.

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