Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Southbridge Tax Rate will go up 4.2%, Water Rate Up 2% Under New Budget

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?

When is the spending holiday going to come to an end?


  1. People will unfortunately (eventually) walk away from their homes because they will not be able to afford it in Southbridge anymore.

  2. This is way special legislation was passed by the state legislature to require a 2/3 vote of the council to gain access to all of the landfill royalties. Unfortunately for us, Mr. Clark concocted a bogus explanation for bypassing the special legislation that the previous council simply accepted without much debate. As feared by the people who wrote the special legislation, ALL the royalties are being consumed by the operating budget and the council has no stomach to reign in our free spending town manager.

    When the money runs out, the TM will move on and we'll have the council of 2011 to thank for the huge deficits we'll have to deal with. I hope Southbridge understands this and sends Mr. Clark's enablers packing in June.

  3. aka Jester

    I thought that the Sewer Rate was increasing 2%....not water?

    1. My notes from watching last night's meeting indicate that Clark referred to water rates.

  4. This actually has driven some people from town-
    This is how Southbridge feels about Chris-

  5. Zotos says, please vote these fools out of office

  6. Afternoon Ken
    I find this increase appalling but there is no one to blame but us the tax payers of Southbridge. We keep electing those who keep raising taxes. Mr Cournoyer said that the rate was based on raising the max tax levy allowed under prop 2 1/2. But they are also using landfill royalties and other method allowed by law such as taking from the enterprise funds to off set the cost of running government. This is and will come back to bite the residents of Southbridge, sooner than later. Did our town manager think about the money that will not come in from taxes by all the property that is and going to be foreclosed during this time, did he use the sale of town property again to figure out the tax rate, has he assumed that there will be no hidden cost associated with the new Jr/Sr high school. How are the citizen going to afford these increases, what is going to happen to our senior citizens on fixed incomes. Is southbridge going to build a tent city to house all of the homeless people that cant afford living in their homes any more. Sure these are extreme statements but is it coming, is Southbridge about to bottom out. Mr Cournoyer is not going to speak out against Mr Clark he knows who signs the pay checks, everyone knows this but NO ONE employed by the town will go against Mr Clark they need their jobs, The economy may be picking up slowly but its surly going down hill in Southbridge. Its time to clean house and it should start right in the town managers office.

  7. What really p’ed me off was Nikolla’s rant last week about nobody attending the budget hearing. Where are we supposed to get the information to ask intelligent questions? I can’t find the time to attend every subcommittee meeting. Someone I know wanted a copy and was told they had to pay 20 cents a page for it. Why can’t this stuff be put on the town website so we can see it before they hold a hearing that is more like a red herring?

  8. Ken I would also like to suggest some cuts that could be made.

    1. Apply for grants from both the federal and state government and regional lies the Ambulance service, Fire Department and DPW with other communties.
    2. Purchase with other communities equipment that could be shared.
    3. Eliminate positions in both the Police and Fire Departments.
    4. 4 Day work week in Town Hall
    5. Combine some secretaries in town hall. ( the building boom is down go see how busy the secretary is in the inspections office.
    5. Combine dispatch functions for the police and fire and maybe during the day they could handle dispatch for DPW.
    6. Get rid of the airport and sell off the land. ( take a real look at the airport at least to see if it is worth while.)
    I know some of these are far fetched but you have to start somewhere. Maybe talking about such cuts would wake some people up and really take a look at the bottom line.

  9. The airport is an asset and should be invested in. Just like our high quality water was until Clark defied a Board of Health cease and desist and started injecting ammonia into it so he could sell it to Charlton so the private water co. and the hospital could profit at the expense of Southbridge citizens. You notice how now they've got Tasse up at the podium talking about how he can install a system so you can have clean water again (like we had before Clark).

    Clark is a disaster and he and Spinelli, Clemence and Nikolla are running things just like the Bush administration only they are taxing, fining, borrowing and overcharging everyone to pay for their foolishness. Honestly, I've never seen such mismanagement and reckless spending in my 50+ years living in this area. I could be wrong but I think they're proposing a budget that will lead to the highest tax rate in the entire state of MA!

  10. Look I really don't mind paying taxes, but I want to see something for it in return. Like maybe leveled sidewalks, how about public transportation, not smell the sewer treatment plant, more police and fire, a school system that's not a level 4.. Do they really think that 30% of the population can carry this town? Who will they tax if those who work and pay taxes? They are just going to push them out, then what becomes of our Town? Paul is right "vote these fools out" or they will continue making fools of us....

  11. Big Jim please tell me how the Southbridge Airport is such an asset for the town. There is no business plan by the operator, the only business plan up there is the rent that he collects from planes being parked there. The runway is to short for business class jets to use on a regular basis. Maintenance is lacking that effects the safety of aircraft. Look at the lights alone many are out and have been long before the tornado. The beacon has been out for years. The fence is over grown with brush and weeds. Half the time when someone goes up there looking for the operator he never there. The grass is over grown and hardly cut, doesn't the town have a mower. Are you going to tell me that all the trees that have grown in the fenced in area is safe. My god they still have wrecked planes laying around from the tornado. The place lack maintenance. The only thing that's happening and good up there is the restaurant but who collects the rent from that, not the town. Look into how much money the town makes from this asset. The person who runs the airport pays very little rent and if I recall its at a reduce rate because of the tornado and the rent is late most months. You will see its more of a liability than an asset. Maybe if they had the funds and maybe if they had a business plan and maybe, maybe and maybe, but there is just to many maybes and maybes don't pay the bills. The town manager knows all about maybes he has been preaching maybes since being here and look know 4.2 % tax increase. At the minimum the council should look at the airport and determine is it an asset, can it be profitable as a small airport and what would be the best use of this area. As much as I don't like it the water department pays for it self by the people that use it same as the sewer department.

  12. First of all, the water department is a for-profit enterprise that is raking in tons of money and overcharging residents and businesses alike for an inferior treated product. Everyone I know has noticed the difference in the water over the past half year. Heck I've had to get two new shower curtains cause they keep staining red from all the anticorrosive their pumping in to stop lead from leaching outta the pipes. Also, last I checked the extra money coming in is also how they pay for several overblown salaries up at town hall through diverted costs. This is a resource that we own and could be profiting from ourselves.

    As to the airport, you just don't get it. The airport, like our water reservoir is an asset, and most certainly so if you are serious about an "industrial park". Just because it is poorly maintained and is getting rented for a steal doesn't mean it isn't worth anything. Heck that's the problem with the whole town and all our resources. We used to advertise that we had our own airport now people can't wait to get rid of it. Look at the last time we did a "master plan" and see how the airport was touted as an asset then. A healthy airport butts heads with the real folks who are running our town, Casella. They'd love nothing more than more dumping ground up there and of course there's those looming FAA requirements that so far have been skirted because the neutered BOH and Airport Commission won't do their jobs. If our resources get maintained properly and the exploitation stops, all these things, even the landfill could be considered assets. We just gotta stop giving em away and letting folks from out of town line their pockets.

  13. Big Jim I agree with what you are saying regarding the water and sewer departments. They are for profit entities within the town. They should be making a profit and being self sustaining. I also agree that the rates are to high and should be brought under control. The extra money if you want to call it that is allowed under the law that establishes enterprise funds in the commonwealth. If town resources are used they should be reimbursed for the cost of operating a business and not by those who don't use it. As far as the airport I never mentioned that it should be used as an industrial park. I wanted to bring forth whether it was a worth while venture and if is actually a asset for the community. One way to do this is to have a actual study done and go from there. I say if it is a white elephant get rid of, if it is a asset than support.

    1. The airport is an element that makes our community attractive to business. It is not a white elephant as you incorrectly assert. It is paid for by federal grants and rents. No town money goes into the airport. Plus, all federal grants would have to be paid back if the airport were to close.

  14. Mr. Aviator you should look back at past budgets and see just how the town share is paid for. Also last time I knew that federal grants come from taxes pay, and I cant remember the last time that a business moved to Southbridge because of the airport.

    1. Anonymous poster 2:52, you shouldn't automatically assume that an aviator is male, you do realize there are women pilots!

      The amount of federal money that comes in covers the airport costs. Either your short on memory or you haven't lived in town long enough to know that the DoD people were interested in three main aspects of Southbridge when they were looking for the finance centers, The hospital, the airport and the golf course.

      Southbridge is land locked enough as far as highway access, the airport is at least one other added plus.

      You should do your research beyond the budget. All money comes from some form of tax or user fee, but at the federal level it is spread out over the entire population not just the Southbridge taxpayers so it isn't costing Southbridge.

      If you knew about economic development, you'd know just how valuable an airport is. But based on your previous posts and statements you're just a disgruntled person who doesn't like the airport and that's no reason to get rid of it.

  15. Anonymous, take a look at how our official Long Term Plan has worked out:


    This is a real fascinating and at the same time depressing read. Instead of taking any of the suggestions in this 100+ page document to heart Southbridge has moved in the opposite direction on nearly every front while the towns around us have left us in the dust. Worst of all the biggest decision Southbridge made was to turn the town into the biggest dump in the State (where the hell was this suggestion in the "Long Term Plan"). Trash mountain will keep hurting our image along with the welfare office being in town until we say enough is enough and start doing what's right, getting rid of this exploitation and making it so people want to live here. Nobody but free loaders are moving here now and a lot of good people are leaving.

    1. well, hell yes. Who wants to live in a town that has water you can not drink, air you can not breathe ( I mean really, it is disgusting if you are anywhere near the big Y Plaza) and a downtown that is a total joke.... and for that privilege you get to pay the highest tax rate around? The only reason people are not leaving in droves is the real estate has dropped so much so fast, that many would be losing their shirts. As bad as it is, people still do not come out and vote this clown council out of office... and send the town manager back to Sturbridge. Let him find another bunch of fools who will pay him as much as the governor of MA ... unbelievable.

  16. tired of being Stabbed by HydesMay 27, 2012 at 10:09 AM

    God forbid ever closing the airport where would the clemences keep their helicopter and plane for denise to take the town manager for a view of the tornado damaged property . She was flying over all those poor people lookin down on them, then went to the southbridge fest when they need help and even more disqusting now she having a friken hotdog bash a YEAR later just before the election. People of southbridge wake up to this phony and send her on her broomstick for a ride to Canada!

  17. Glad to see Sturbridge is not alone with high taxes. For those who haven't been poisoned by the mainstream media, this is what the tea party is all about. Spending needs to be controlled at the local level first and it starts with holding your local officials accountable.


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