Framingham’s financial situation is stronger than ever. This has happened for a number of reasons, but there are three big ones:
1. There has been large annual increases in state aid over the last 10 years, averaging 3.5M a year. Go back just a few years before that and the annual increase was often close to zero, or even a reduction. Most of this good fortune is due to the change in the Chapter 70 aid formula and is to the credit of our legislators.
2. New growth in our real estate tax base has been at historical highs.
3. On the expense side, the change of health insurance plans has reduced the cost of that one item.
The one group that has not reaped as big a benefit from the good times is the taxpayer. Although Framingham taxes have not been raised to the max the last few years, they have went up. During the last five years Framingham has collected an average of nearly $10,000,000 a year more than it has needed for operations. The result is a large build up in our stabilization funds and free cash accounts. Although this is positive in many ways, it is just a fact the more savings the City builds, the more money it takes from its residents to do so. Residents should also have the opportunity to build up their savings.
Municipal good times do not last forever. This year we have a unique opportunity to use the free cash that was destined for the budget and return it to the taxpayer. We can do this without cutting services and without imperiling future budgets. When times get bad the taxpayer is always the person who has to make up the difference. It is critical that when times are good, like they are now, that it be recognized and the taxpayer be given a break. Our proposed budget plan does that. For the first time in the Proposition 2 ½ era we are proposing a decrease in the current levy base while not only maintaining services but offering expansion in several areas.
I hope you follow our process as we adopt the first budget in the history of the City of Framingham. I believe this is only the beginning of fair and transparent budgeting that will focus on balancing providing our excellent municipal services, while fighting to keep Framingham affordable at the same time.
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