The City Council just finished consideration of the FY 2024 budget and the news is good. We unanimously adopted a budget that maintains all city services and gives the Framingham School Department the largest increase in many years. We were also able to limit the property tax increase to about 1%.
This year presented an opportunity to continue to minimize the property tax increase, because many of the other revenues were strong, allowing total revenue to rise almost 5%. In a year where other revenues are strong it is important to limit the tax levy so we can rely on it when we need to.
The average Framingham tax bill is over $7,100, which is fairly significant putting us in the top 35% of municipalities. Had we not taken similar steps in recent years to try to limit the tax levy increase as we did this year, the bill would be over $8,500. That would put us in the top 20% of municipalities, a big chance as to affordability. I am confident that by being mindful and efficient we are able assure Framingham remains an economically diverse community keeping the increase in tax bills predictable and manageable, while providing support for services.
The financial situation as it stands, after a lot of hard work by both the Council and the Mayor, is very positive. The Mayor announced last week Moodys, which is the third party rating service we use to review our financial standing when issuing debt, gave us the highest possible rating. This is excellent news that Moodys sees Framingham’s financial position as strong and well managed.
I am not sure the opinions of Moodys are as important as some think. But this opinion offered by Moodys is going to disappoint critics, who were almost guaranteeing Moodys to downgrade Framingham’s bond rating. Instead, the opposite happened, assuring all that we are heading in the right direction.
The Moodys review confirms what I have seen first-hand. The Mayor and his team have worked hard to rebuild Framingham’s finances, and it looks like they have met with good success. Their biggest challenge and most impressive accomplishment is the rebuilding of the water and sewer fund. This fund was devastated by mismanagement and ran a deficit in excess of $20 million from 2018 to 2021. That deficit shook the foundation of the City’s finances overall as tax money was required to bail out the failing fund.
We have to continually stay on top on our finances. We need to assure that the City provides all the services it needs to, while doing so effectively and efficiently. This year I think we accomplished that to the benefit of all.
This news is particularly encouraging given all the other accomplishments we have achieved over the last 18 months. We have acquired the right of way for the Bruce Freidman Rail Trail, signed an agreement with the state that will pave the way for a new justice center at the old Danforth building, acquired the office building next to town hall for a very reasonable price and obtained seed money for a new downtown parking garage. These are all things that will improve our community.
The news is good as we enter the summer. During the warm days to come, we can enjoy our newly revitalized farmers market, every week on Thursday, staring two weeks from now. On June 30 this year, Framingham will have a fireworks display for the first time in 23 years. The summer concert series starts two weekends from now every Friday night on the Center Common.
Things are looking up in the City, make sure you are a part of it!