Get Accurate Info on Prop 2 1/2 Override
I am writing to hopefully clear up some confusion about our Town’s budget and the Override. The goal is less to persuade but to present accurate information, so that voters can make the best decision for Fairhaven.
Past budget shortfalls in the Town’s operating budget had been supplemented by “Free Cash” (a budget for unexpected overages mandated by the State) or cuts to capital expenditures (funds specifically budgeted for needs and projects).
Free Cash allocations are intended to be used for one time costs. Using capital expenditures for the operating budget (salaries and supplies) takes away from necessary projects (like building repairs). It also ensures a larger deficit in the operating budget the following fiscal year. This is not a recommended financial practice. The longer one waits to make repairs the more it will cost due to inflation. Using free cash for operating funds would be like paying your mortgage with your rainy day fund when your checking account is constantly in the negative.
So how can we fix this issue? In the State of Massachusetts, if a town wishes to raise taxes beyond the 2.5% threshold, a ballot measure called an Override, is put to a vote by the taxpayers. The Override is not a permanent change to the tax rate and is ONLY valid for the amount on the ballot for that year. The Override will raise the tax rate (property, commercial and industrial) beyond the 2.5% for only Fiscal Year 2024. The current proposal is an additional increase of .0087%. For the average Fairhaven household (average assessed value of $394,000) this increase is about $43 for the year or $3.62 per month.
Changes to the tax rate in 2025, or any other year, would not exceed 2.5% without an additional ballot measure. ($450K in additional revenue will stay as these are for recurring bills and the state will recalculate our levy limit inclusive of this amount going forward — not exceeding 2.5%). So, approval of the Override would prompt the State of Massachusetts to see the increased need with Fairhaven’s total operating budget, recalculate our levy limit (the limit is based on the previous year’s limit plus certain allowable increases), and provide additional tax revenue for the Fiscal Year 2025 and beyond.
Simply put, without an Override approval, the budget will not remain level. Next year we will be forced into making additional cuts and be behind on more projects such as the maintenance of our Town buildings. We will not be able to support our Town employees and departments by cutting staff and equipment, decreasing services. When we cut from schools, we are cutting from our children’s education. Additionally we are risking our residents’ safety and the safety of those working in the Fire Department, who have worked with bare bones staffing levels for years.
It’s time we take responsibility for past errors, correct the current budgetary issues and minimize any negative effects on the Town’s future.
For our neighbors who are concerned over the FY24 tax bill and how it will affect their personal budgets, please consider the options already available to you. Checking with the Town Assessor’s Office for abatement options or Senior Work-Off. Check with Eversource on lower rates for low income consumers. The Family Resource Center for Schools & the COA for available programs. Check with local non-profits such as PACE. Food assistance (SNAP), fuel assistance, clothing, pantries, any way to help lessen life’s financial burdens with larger monthly benefits and savings than the yearly total of override.
I hope this has helped with information on the proposed FY24 Budget Override and helps you make an informed decision on what is best for the Town of Fairhaven and its future.
Jessica Fidalgo, Fairhaven
Click here to download the 5/4/23 issue: 05-04-23 ArborDay
Support local journalism, donate to the Neighb News with PayPal