The Town Council voted 5-0 to approve a $74.7 million budget for fiscal year 2023 before a few town employees and a handful of viewers on Zoom in a special session at Town Hall Monday night. The budget was the only agenda item.
What does this mean for residents? For homeowners, the tax rate is going from $21.01 to $21.42 per $1,000 assessed value, a 41 cent increase. For someone with a house assessed at $500,000, the tax bill will go up by $205, to $10,710.
The new fiscal year starts July 1.
The commercial property tax rate will go from $23.25 to $24.39 per $1,000 assessed value. And the commercial personal property tax will increase from $30.23 to $31.77, with a $2,500 exemption.
This Town Council separated the three rates in 2019, their first year in office, to be able to leverage taxes paid by larger commercial businesses to offset residential property taxes. While the tax rate continues to increase, the rate of increase for homeowners the past three years was just below 1 percent. This year, the rate of increase is 1.95 percent.
“I think it was a good budget because it addressed a number of objectives,” said Town Council President Mark Schwager after the meeting. “We’ve tried to keep the tax rates reasonable and this year there were more stresses, including inflation and salary increases.”
“This is a tight, responsible budget,” said Vice President Mike Donegan during the meeting. He noted the commercial rates, particularly the personal property (also called the tangible) rate were still well below that of nearby communities.
Councilor Caryn Corenthal, who is a teacher, said it had been a “horrible year” for teachers in general, noting “Covid, mask requirements, book banning, phony CRT discussions and lately the most ridiculous thing of all, arming teachers…. So, in my opinion, teachers probably deserve bonuses. But on the other hand, my job as an elected official, it’s my job to represent the taxpayers…. The bulk of our money goes to the schools so I think it’s reasonable for me to ask questions regarding the school budget.”
The budget gives the schools $38.7 million, $500,000 less than the School Committee requested. At the School Committee meeting Tuesday, Chair Anne Musella said the panel would take up how to handle that gap at their next meeting, based on recommendations from Supt. Alexis Meyer. Town Manager Andy Nota has suggested and Town Council members have supported the idea that the committee could use money from its fund balance rather than make cuts (read more HERE).
Musella noted they had gotten good feedback from parents and others about the clarity of the district’s budgeting process this year and expressed frustration over comments made publicly questioning the district’s budgeting process.
“I just don’t understand how anyone can say on a good faith basis that ‘you don’t know what you’re doing,’” she said, seeming to refer to comments made by Councilor Corenthal at earlier budget meetings.
The budget approved Monday did not include the $5 million wastewater treatment budget EG News has included in earlier articles – the charter does not name a date by which the wastewater treatment budget must be finalized and because it is paid for by user fees, it does not have any bearing on property taxes.
Find past budget articles here:
Find a link to the Town Manager’s budget HERE.