Massachusetts towns are making dramatic cuts to their FY’21 budgets due to the pandemic, including freezing administrators’ pay at FY’20 levels.
Yet in the face of obvious uncertainty about new growth and local tax receipts, Foxboro is persisting on increasing the budget from last year’s request of $79.2 million to $83.8 million this year — an increase of $4.6 million or 5.8%. This means increases to property taxes for Foxboro residents, many whom are facing pay cuts or unemployment.
The proposed budget depends on accelerated spending down of our free cash. Moreover, $1 million originally allocated to retirees’ benefits is instead being spent on the operating budget, kicking retiree obligations down the road to future years. We are spending too much money and creating future debt.
While we do have some money to ride out the economic downturn, our free cash “rainy day fund” was already cut in half (from $8 million to $4 million) over the last two years due to overspending.
The plan for FY’21 was to continue this trend of overspending before the pandemic hit. The town has lost revenue this fiscal year with events at Gillette Stadium canceled, and losses to meals and hotel tax. At some point our “rainy day” fund will run dry.
Many towns use a Proposition 2 1/2 override to charge homeowners an even higher rate of tax than normal when free cash runs low. With the pandemic and resulting economic downturn, the town’s free cash position is in jeopardy.
While I think it is more fiscally responsible to cut the budget now, I applaud selectmen Chairman Mark Elfman and school board Chairwoman Tina Belanger for their commitment to no tax overrides. With proposed spending levels, taxpayers will be hit hard enough with planned tax increases without an additional override.
Thank you very much!
Susan Dring, Foxboro