FROM THE TOWN ADMINISTRATOR’S DESK
By Gregory T Federspiel
Town Meeting day is Monday April 2. I look forward to meeting residents at the Memorial School starting at 7PM. Yes, I remain a fan of Town Meeting and I enjoy it every year. I believe the gathering is one of the cornerstones of living in a small community as it affords a unique opportunity for residents to come together, debate and decide budgets and issues that impact the quality of life here in our corner of the world. Your voice and votes make a difference – I hope you share my enthusiasm and plan to attend.
One main focus of the Annual Town Meeting is the approval of various budgets for the Town and the School District. The Finance Committee’s Report and the District’s Report have been delivered to all households and provide a good road map to the proposed FY19 budgets. Voters can increase or decrease the proposed numbers by proposing specific amendments during the proceedings. Last week I noted that the Town operating budget is proposed to increase 2.8%. The School District’s requested appropriation is up 3.34% on a budget that is increasing 3.18%
To pay for these increases, a 2.5% increase in the tax rate is anticipated along with just under another 1% increase in tax revenue from new growth – that is, new construction that has occurred over the past year. New growth has increased our revenues for many years ranging between a 1 -1.5% increase in tax revenues each year for the past 20 years. The cumulative impact of this new growth is over $53 million above what would have been collected had there been no new construction.
No requests for an override or new debt exclusions are on the warrant. There is a request to approve a capital exclusion that is equal to the drop in debt exclusion payments from the last two years. The good news is that this does not cause an increase in the tax rate. However, approval prevents the tax rate from being less. As was noted in last week’s Cricket, over the last 20 years three overrides have been approved, meaning voters have specifically chosen to increase their taxes above the limitations of Proposition 2 ½ in order to pay for certain services. Such increases are amplified as they increase the base on which a “regular” 2.5% increase is calculated. During this same time period voters also approved new borrowings worth over $51 million and decided to pay for these bonds mostly through debt exclusions, also meaning higher taxation above the limits imposed by Proposition 2 ½ but not subject to any increases like overrides.
There are a number of other articles as well, from Community Preservation projects to establishing a new cable funded account and funding a new fiber loop connecting municipal and school buildings. There are three articles related to non-medical marijuana establishments in town – a proposed ban through zoning; a proposed ban through a general bylaw; and a proposed zoning amendment to restrict non-medical marijuana establishments to the Limited Commercial District as is currently the case for medical marijuana establishments. Ballot approval is also required for the first two but not the third marijuana related article.
The complete list of all 22 articles to be voted on at the Annual Town Meeting can be found in the Finance Committee Report that the scouts delivered to all households. The warrant is also available on-line at the Town’s web site. See you Monday evening!