Tuesday, July 25, 2017

How to Approach a Deficit in Framingham

This newspaper article says there is about a $900,000 deficit in the present year town budget.  I appreciate the transparency, but I am not as enthused about the potential solutions.  The Selectman have wisely said they will not recommend raising property taxes closer to the limit this year in order to meet the deficit. In reality though, if the administration uses the $700,000 source of funds mentioned in the article to cover the deficit, it is in fact a raise of property taxes.  

We have been told the $700,000 was raised temporarily to ultimately smooth the tax split, not add to the permanent base. This $700,000 is something I have written about in the past.  It was raised on our tax rate, yet never appropriated by Town Meeting.  Back to my days on the Finance Committee, I was concerned about the cost this represented to the taxpayer, and if this solution is adopted the cost becomes permanent.

We need to stabilize our tax rate in Framingham, as our rate is one of the highest in the state.  It impacts the affordability of our town for many residents and it could imperil the financial stability of the Town if it keeps growing.  In a couple of recent years at this time we have had about a $5,000,000 surplus in the budget, but there was no public discussion of returning the money to the taxpayers.  Instead it was just left alone and flowed to our surplus (free cash).  Last year’s surplus should smooth this year’s small deficit. The $700,000 should be used as planned to reduce the levy.

These financial issues are complex and they impact all of us.  We can continue to fund our town well and offer excellent services, yet while stabilizing our tax rate increases.  I am confident that if I am elected to the city council I can offer meaningful leadership in these matters to benefit taxpayers.   We can’t continue to burden the taxpayer for incidental deficits, especially when we seem to never benefit the taxpayer with incidental surpluses. 

It is true the Town has raised taxes less than the maximum levy the last few years.  However, given the surpluses we have realized in those years we could have avoiding raising taxes at all.  Those opportunities do not come around often; I hope we have not missed our chance.

Stabilization of our tax bills is complex.  If I am fortunate enough to be elected, I will make it my highest priority.

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