SHIRLEY — There could be a Proposition 2/1/2 tax override bid in the town’s near future, despite its historic aversion to the revenue-raising initiative.
In the wake of an Annual Town Meeting that resoundingly rejected the financial framework of a restructuring plan aimed at whittling down the structural deficit and building up the town’s bank account, selectmen are rethinking their long-term strategy.
Monday night, they talked about the possibility of asking for a tax override sooner rather than later, a step they were leery of taking before.
The catalyst for the change was last week’s Town Meeting, which effectively stopped the municipal makeover plan in its tracks.
Crafted by Town Administrator Patrice Garvin and backed by selectmen and the Finance Committee, the plan called for cuts most voters were not willing to make.
Another just say no moment came at the Special Town Meeting earlier this year, when voters rejected proposed zoning changes forwarded by the Economic Development Committee and aimed at attracting more business to bring in needed new revenue.
Monday night, Garvin asked selectmen where they wanted to go from here.
To begin with, they must revisit five-ear projections that Town Accountant Bobbi Jo Colburn was asked to revise in light of the ATM outcome.
The best-case scenario, based on assumptions so far, was a $601,000 deficit for Fiscal Year 2017. Worst case, it could be $750,000 or more if annual regional school assessments continue to rise at the current rate, Colburn said.
The challenge, going forward, would be to figure out what services townspeople want and are willing to pay for. “Clearly, they don’t want the rezoning or the reductions,” Garvin said, positing that the only obvious avenue left was to raise taxes via a Proposition 2/1/2 override bid.
Now, it’s up to the selectmen to decide when and for how much, she said.
Selectman Kendra Dumont agreed. “After the Town Meeting…we’re obviously going to need an override at some point,” she said. Noting that some departments had been level-funded for five years or more, “that’s got to change,” she said.
The town can’t keep supplementing its operating budget with savings, either, Garvin said.
“The more you drain Stabilization Funds, the less there is” to dip into, she said, referencing the fact that the fund — with over $1 million in it at the outset — was the primary go-to when Town Meeting recently restored hours and salaries for positions that were downsized in the restructuring plan.
Chairman David Swain favored forming a committee to look into the override issue. It should include “some people from the general public,” he said. “They need to see what we do.”