April 10, 2023 By George Danis, AdCom Chair
The 2023 Town Meeting Warrant, with the Report of the Advisory Committee, is currently on-line and will be in your mailbox shortly. The Report provides valuable insight into the Advisory Committee’s decision to recommend an $8.0 million dollar override for the FY 24 budget. While I encourage you to carefully read the Warrant completely, there are several important items in the report that I would like to bring to your attention.
First, the Town has balanced its last two budgets with one-time funds. These funds (Federal and unassigned fund balance) have been used to hire necessary staff and provide critical services and programs. Those funds are no longer available, and we are now faced with the decision to either find a permanent source of funding for these positions and services or eliminate them. At this Town Meeting we will have to make a choice about the level of services, programs, and staff we desire and what we are willing to pay for with our taxes. The decisions we make will have a significant impact on all of us and will reflect the values, goals and aspirations we have for our Town and its citizens.
Our first choice is to create a budget that limits spending to available revenue. This is a balanced budget and will require that expenses be reduced by $6.0 million dollars. This reduction would severely affect the level of services and programs that residents currently enjoy and would require the elimination of 46+ positions in Schools and 19+ in various Municipal Departments. The Advisory Committee unanimously felt that eliminating this many employees would dramatically affect the ability of Schools and Municipal Departments to deliver quality programs and services to residents.
Our other choice is to pass an override to set revenues to the level of services and programs that we as a Town want and desire. An override is a permanent increase in taxes to reset revenue to match the cost of providing necessary and desired services to residents and is not undertaken lightly. With this budget, all services and programs currently enjoyed by citizens are restored along with necessary additions to staff, services, and capital spending. The extra spending is critical to addressing chronic underfunding in capital and departmental budgets. The Advisory Committee (and the Select Board) felt that the expense reductions required in a balanced budget are not in the best interests of the Town and its citizens and unanimously voted in favor of an $8.0 million dollar override budget.
The Select Board, School Committee, and AdCom also felt that a key component of an override was a pledge to reduce future spending and delay any future potential override. The three boards agreed to limit spending growth to 3.5% per year for both the Municipal and School Departments and to defer any potential override until FY 28 at the earliest.
A major concern with an override is the impact on taxpayers. The proposed override adds $751 to the FY 24 property tax bill of the median assessed value ($900k) property in Town. This additional tax will increase annually by about 3.25% due to prop 2 ½ and the Town’s CPA surcharge. AdCom noted that the Town offers a dozen tax relief programs to qualifying residents to help offset the effect of rising taxes.
The upcoming Town Meeting on April 24 th and the April 29 th election are critical ones for the Town. Decisions made at this meeting and at the ballot box will have lasting repercussions. I urge you to read your Warrant, attend and participate in Town Meeting and then follow up by voting at the special Town election.