Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Taxpayers Aren't Santa

Ken O'Brien

December 5th's Southbridge town council meeting illustrated the upside down nature of town government.

Councilors and citizens were informed that they had no choice regarding the property tax rate. Their only choice was whether there would be a single rate for all property owners or different rates for industrial, commercial and residential properties.

Now, whether you're a household or a business, the first thing you do when you prepare a budget is determine your income. Then you formulate a budget that fits within that income.

Not so for town government. First you establish your budget and later you set the income you will extort from the taxpayers.

I believe that it is time to institute a change that will correct this topsy-turvy situation.

The Town Charter provides in Section 4-2-3 that "The manager shall:
(d) prepare, assemble and present to the council the annual town operating and capital  budgets, shall present said budgets to the council in a format acceptable to the council and cooperate with the council in all financial matters."

Given that the budgets must be “in a format acceptable to the council" I would propose the following addition to the town bylaws:

"4-102.5 The annual operating and capital budget submissions of the town manager to the town council shall include a projected impact upon the existing property tax rate given information available at the time of the vote on the budget. Any increase from the projections when the proposed tax rate is actually presented to the council shall trigger a mandate that the budget be amended to conform to the revenue assumptions presented when the budget was adopted unless the council suspends by a 2/3 vote said mandate."

This provision will restore sanity to the budgeting and taxing process where town officials must act like responsible adults rather than children expecting that Santa will fulfill their every wish.


  1. Laurent R. McDonaldDecember 6, 2011 at 8:44 PM

    I would be pleased to sponsor such a bylaw. Larry Laurent R. McDonald

  2. Sad that this would seem necessary, but given the reckless tax and spend attitude of this council majority, some measures need to be taken. They cannot keep bleeding the residents and small business owners of this town while we continue on a steady road of economic decline.

  3. I believe it is the responsibility of the town government to first put their house in order. Trim the fat, (think four assistants here for Clark, fees for trash that are already paid for by taxpayers, etc.) elect responsible officials who do not simply tax and spend,(think Clemence, Nikolla, etc.) and bring ideas to the table that do not burden an already excessive tax base on it's citizens. It is called responsive government and is an oxymoron much like military intelligence. It is time to right the oxymoron that is Southbridge.

  4. Larry, thank you. I think that it's about time councilors are held to account for the taxes that are imposed as a result of the budget that they adopt. Monday night's meeting made all too clear the historical dodge of one council voting a budget and leaving it to the next council to pay for it. This bylaw would make it clear what the tax impact of a budget vote would be at the time the vote on the budget is taken.

  5. Sounds great in theory but how can we get this implemented? i am brand new to all this, but it seems like any SMART item brought forward to the council gets stomped on, and the same 2 councilmen vote the responsible way but get outvoted everytime? (HUGE thankyou BTW larry!)i was stunned to see residents basically pouring their hearts out, pleeding with them not to raise our taxes right now, and all in a very respectful manner, only to be ingnored, insulted and scorned by the "madam" chair. i'm sorry but where i'm from you don't talk to people like she does. and do they think we are stupid? when i have to pay MORE taxes (which they said close to $100 more this year) then it's called RAISING taxes....no matter how you keep trying to feed it to us, it still tastes like garbage. i've already lost one neighbor (a life long resident) who packed up and moved to florida, and one family member (resident since '96) who moved to a surrounding town, both because they said they couldn't afford southbridge anymore...and i'm getting real close to moving back out of here (i've been here since 2009)


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