To the editor,
I am writing this letter in response to a letter that was recently printed in the Foxboro Reporter entitled “Foxboro still has a spending problem.”
The fiscal 2021 budget, as proposed, includes three major components. The first is the general fund expenditures (town and school budgets,) which are directly related to the town’s tax rate. The second component is the water and sewer enterprise expenditures, which are entirely supported by water and sewer fees. The third component is the fixed costs, which are supported by a combination of revenues from the general fund and from water and sewer fees.
In fiscal year 2021 the general fund expenditures are expected to increase by only 3.28%. That increase is well within the 3.5 % guideline that the board of selectmen, school committee and advisory committee discussed for Fiscal Year 2021.
The remaining 2.52% (of the 5.8% increase) is attributable to water and sewer expenditures (which are set by the water and sewer commission) and fixed costs, which include general insurance, health insurance, pension, and most importantly, debt service (principal and interest). All of the fixed cost budgets are cost obligations that the town must pay.
Summary of FY 2021 Budget Proposal:
General Fund (GF) operating expenditures= Town: $18,638,958; School: $37,499,12; Total estimated FY 2021 GF increase= $56,138,079 or 3.28%.
Fixed costs increase= $20,674,285 or 8.42%.
Water and sewer enterprise increase= $ 8,649,006 or16.20%.
Projected total budget increase for FY 2021= $85,461,370 or 5.80%
A simple review of the proposed FY 2021 spending plan reveals that the main cost driver is the debt service for both the Burrell School and the new water treatment plant. Both of these projects were planned and approved as capital projects by the taxpayers. The added debt service for these two projects combined is ironically $2 million; the same amount that the writer of the letter notes as the amount that exceeds the 3.5 % recommended budget guideline. The added debt service contained in the budget should not have come as a surprise to anyone as the town planned for this expense nearly three years ago and is now executing the plan to pay for it.
An important part of the town’s success story is the financial planning that is well documented in Foxboro. The fact that Foxboro has paid for a new town hall and is now renovating and adding on to the Burrell School without asking taxpayers for a debt exclusion (additional taxing authority beyond Proposition 2 ½) to pay for the debt service associated with these improvements; is nothing short of extraordinary. This is an important example (and contrary to the writers assertions) where the town set money aside ($4 million) to directly pay for this debt and reduced the balance to an amount that could then be financed within the town’s existing revenue structure. This was an approach that will save the taxpayers of Foxboro millions of dollars in future tax burden.
To say that the town has created a “huge debt” without a plan to pay for it is simply wrong. A recent evaluation of community debt burden throughout Norfolk County indicates that Foxboro’s debt burden as of June 30, 2018 for Pension, OPEB (Other Post-Employment Benefits), Bonds and other Notes Payable is the third lowest in all of the 28 communities within the county.
It’s also a fact that Foxboro has been consciously paying down its OPEB liability at one of the fastest rates in the Commonwealth. This was a major contributing factor in the community achieving its Triple A Bond Rating. Included in Foxboro’s budget, unlike many other communities, is an annual payment of $1.1 million dollars to eliminate the OPEB liability in total by the year 2035.
Foxboro annually takes responsible budget actions. It does not spend money beyond its means. More importantly, Foxboro has also addressed the other side of the balanced government equation by reinvesting in itself and providing the kinds of services and facilities that residents and businesses have come to expect from this community.
William G. Keegan, Jr., Foxboro Town Manager