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Selectmen Announce Lower than Maximum Tax Rate

by William Dowd
December 11, 2012

Then, we could all give them the credit they are trying so hard to ...

Selectmen Announce Lower than Maximum Tax Rate

At the Board of Selectmen meeting on December 10, 2012, the Board concluded its tax rate classification hearing for FY13. During the discussion, the Board made it very clear that based on the updated valuations of property and the approved FY13 budget, Holliston would be spending almost $240,000 LESS than the maximum permitted under Prop 2 ½. This works out to a tax rate 12 cents lower than it could be.
I believe this was highlighted to demonstrate the very fine financial management that is being provided to Holliston’s taxpayers. To listen to the Board, you’d almost think this was some intentional outcome from a dedicated effort to hold the line on spending. However, from all of my work looking into the Town’s budget and extremely high costs of the health insurance benefits being provided to employees and retirees, I am convinced that this outcome is completely accidental.
All of the Town’s appropriation votes at Town Meeting were predicated on projected valuations and estimated tax rates. It would be imprudent to push revenue estimates up just to make room for more spending. It’s much harder to come back and cut budgets than it is to set budgets below maximum expected revenue and run with a small margin.
For me, the lower than maximum rate means about $43 this year. Don’t get me wrong – I’m grateful. I just don’t think it’s right to put it out there as some accomplishment of rigorous cost control by the Board of Selectmen when it really isn’t. If the Selectmen were really interested in cost control, they would:
a.) insist on rapid recovery of the overcharges the Town has incurred for health insurance,
b.) make a real effort to reform the state law on retiree health insurance eligibility,
c.) correct the mistake it has been making for over ten years in paying more for post-age 65 health insurance than was authorized by Town Meeting,
d.) insist on true cost of service rates for our ambulance service,
e.) rescue the late, incomplete, inaccurate and apparently doomed $30,000 employee compensation and benefit study, and
f.) put forth a well thought out, complete and detailed proposal for a Department of Public Works including costs/savings and benefits to the Town.
Then, we could all give them the credit they are trying so hard to wrestle from the very small amount of money that is both typical of prior years, and derived completely from a mathematical calculation.


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Comments (3)

This highlights mischaracterizations of the Board of Selectmen. This was a public notification of the tax rates worked on by the Assessor's Office. To read such acerbic comments are disappointing. The Board of Selectmen is not seeking self-promotion. Kevin Conley - Holliston Board of Selectmen

- Kevin Conley | 12/12/12 7:54 AM

Please do check out the meeting video at hcattv.org and be sure to stay with it through 3:07. Here's the quote from Chairman Marsden: "So if anybody wonders if we tax all the way up to what we're allowed to, the answer is no we do not". And as you'll see, it was not a casual "by the way" at the end of the hearing, it was a declarative statement smack dab in the middle and made for a purpose. In his comment here, Mr. Marsden had the opportunity to explain exactly what he did mean by such a reference, but chose not to. I've spent a lot of time watching the Board and listening to its deliberations. The things it says and does are for a purpose. I certainly am one in Town who thinks that our taxes are too high and that those responsible - including the Selectmen - are not doing enough to control them. I inferred that I was one of the "anybody's" referred to by Mr. Marsden, and I inferred that he was pointing this out to demonstrate that the Town is so well run, we don't need to tax to the max. If that is incorrect, I'm open to another explanation. But I believe my interpretation is correct and I stand on my written piece. Finally, of all the meaty issues raised in my piece, it's interesting that Chairman Marsden avoided comment on every single one of them.

- Bill Dowd | 12/12/12 7:38 AM

While I usually refrain from commenting on articles that mis-characterize what goes on at BOS meeting (and there are many), I could not let this one pass me by. To represent a 30 second casual comment about the tax levy, that was made for informational purposes, at the end of a tax classification hearing, (see it at HCAT, the comment starts at 2.40) as an example of the BOS pontificating about its sound fiscal management is a disservice to the readers of this site and to those residents who takes these issue seriously. Please feel free to contact me directly with any questions.

- Jay Marsden-Chairman Holliston BOS | 12/12/12 5:45 AM



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