Foxboro has a spending problem, and the administration would rather shoot the messenger than have a serious discussion on what is good fiscal policy. I am that messenger. I keep getting fired upon, but I’m not down yet.
Times are good in Foxboro. We can see all the economic development. We are taking in $17 million more than we did just five years ago. That’s a 27% increase. That’s a lot of money. We could give some of this money back to the taxpayer as some towns do, or put some of this money away for a rainy day as some towns do. Instead, we are spending all this money and more to receive the same services we received five years ago.
Every year we hire additional employees, adding to our salary, health care and pension costs.
Every year we give pay increases of 4% to town employees, while the average taxpayer gets a pay increase of 2%. Other towns are not giving these 4% raises, as they are unsustainable. If property taxes are supposed to be raising at a rate of 2.5%, and our biggest expense is employee’s salaries, how can we afford pay raises of 4%?
At the annual town meeting in May, I presented a chart of growth in the salary line of all budgets. Eight departments had salary line increases of more than 40% in just five years.
After presenting my salary concerns at town meeting, both in the spring and recently on November 4, Town Manager Bill Keegan and Selectman David Feldman discarded the concerns over growing government and claimed my figures were inaccurate. All the numbers I used came from the budget books that the board of selectmen, the advisory committee and the town auditors use to make their recommendations. If the figures in these books are incorrect, or if there is some creative accounting going on, then we are in real trouble. These budget books should be available online so that any taxpayer can see how their hard earned money is being spent.
The town manager has also stated that Foxboro salaries are in the middle compared to surrounding communities. This is not the case. The average salary for Foxboro town employees is higher than the average town employee salary in Sharon, Wrentham, Westwood, Norfolk, Franklin, Bellingham, Millis, Medway and Medfield. Sharon has the same number of non-teaching employees as Foxboro, yet its total salaries are $1.2 million less than Foxboro and Sharon’s pension assessment is $400,000 less than Foxboro. Sharon pays $1.6 million less than Foxboro for the exact same number of municipal employees.
You need only look at the administration salaries in Foxboro to see our new assistant town manager received a $40,000 pay increase with his promotion, while our town manager’s salary of $202,000 is higher than the salary of the mayor of Boston. Clearly, we are in the high range of salaries and climbing.
We are spending our free cash to make up for the shortfall. Our free cash has gone from $8 million (2017), to $6 million (2018) to $4 million (2019). What will we do when we run out of free cash and we have promised 4% raises? Increase taxes even further? We are already taxed to the legal limit.
Keegan and Feldman can continue to shoot the messenger, but I think Foxboro would be much better served if they focused on good fiscal discipline instead. Mr. Feldman promised an open discussion at a board of selectmen’s meeting on future property tax increases and exactly what the additional money will be used for. I look forward to this discussion as a new budget cycle begins.