|Southbridge Town Manager Chris Clark|
Last night the Southbridge town council, by a six to two vote (councilors McDonald and Vandal against, councilor Livengood excused) approved a fiscal year 2013 budget just shy of $45 million.
The key revelation came in response to a question posed by councilor Laurent McDonald. He asked what the impact of the proposed budget would be on the town’s property tax rate. Town manager Clark referred the question to chief assessor Wilfred Cournouyer. After hemming and hawing, his response is quoted in an article by Brian Lee in today’s Worcester Telegram and Gazette.
“Mr. Cournoyer said the manager’s budget was based on an increase in the tax levy to the maximum allowable limit under Proposition 2-1/2
“’To do that, including the new growth would mean the tax levy would increase about 4.2 percent,’ he said.”
That would mean raising the current tax rate from $17.83 per thousand dollars of assessed valuation to $18.58 per thousand.
Another factor impacting residents was that there would be a 2% increase in water rates.
However, from where I stand, the scariest aspect of the entire budget deliberation was the impending cliff towards which we are inevitably heading. This has to do with the fact that we are balancing the budget with funds from the landfill royalty account that will dry up in the foreseeable future.
The fiscal year 2012 budget used $1.08 million from this account to balance the budget. This year another $1.1 million is being used from that account for the same purpose.
If, as some argue, the expanded annual dumping allowed will result in exhaustion of the landfill in only six or seven years, what then?
With no end in sight for the declining property values in town, which also results in higher tax rates to subsidize the budget, what will be the impact of an end of over a million dollars per year when the landfill cash cow runs dry?