As demand for services rise our staff levels continue to fall. There are two unpleasant solutions to this problem. Continue to reduce services or increase taxes.From the FY 2005 Budget Statement (PDF) published by Jeff Nutting in April 2004. This quote can be found on the bottom of page 11. The override mentioned was held in November 2004 and it failed by a 1,148 votes.
An override will be requested for the FY 06 Budget. I estimate it will require approximately $4 million to maintain the level of services that currently exist. A successful override will allow us to balance the budget in the short term but in the long run the fundamental gap between revenues and expenses will arise creating the same problem in the future. The only long-term solution will depend upon changing the the tax laws to curtail the over reliance on the property tax as the primary source of funding local government.
The override is intended to address the current financial problems. It does not address the need to upgrade the high school, reconstruct roads and sidewalks, or fund a hugh unfunded health insurance obligation. These issues will have to be addressed over the next three years.
The future fiscal years beyond FY 07 will be difficult to deal without additional revenues. Please carefully review pages 4-6 titled FY 08 Budget Projections. You will note that with a very modest 2.5% increase in general costs along with increases in energy, health insurance, etc. the town will face a multi-million dollar shortfall. The 2.5% increase is not adequate to provide the same level of services that are currently provided and will lead to reductions in school/municipal services. realistically, the increase would need to be closer to 5% to maintain services. There is no way to avoid the eventual reality that our reserves are dwindling while our costs continue to rise faster than our revenues. I believe that FY 08 will be the year that difficult choices will have to be made in order to balance the budget.From the FISCAL 2007 Annual Report published April 20, 2006 (PDF) by Jeff Nutting. The quote can be found on the bottom of page 2. The difficult choices mentioned did occur in FY 08 and resulted in the first operational override to pass in Franklin by a margin of 1,306 votes.
Final Comment - What do you get for your property taxes?This is from the Fiscal Year 2008 Budget Statement (PDF) as published by Jeff Nutting in March 2008. This quote can be found on the top of the last page, page 11.
Franklin's property taxes are very reasonable. Unlike other taxes we pay, all of your property tax dollars remain in Franklin. The average tax bill in Franklin is $3,872. That amount provides high quality education, saves property and lives, plows your streets, provides library and recreational opportunities, and assists our senior citizens and veterans. When you need a paramedic, police officer, or other public service, they are a phone call away. Your tax dollars are used to improve your quality of life, and in the case of property owners, maintain and increase the value of your investment. In good times or bad, we strive to be prudent with your tax dollars and be responsive to your needs.
As these quotes from the budget information provided during the past several years indicate, an override this year is not a surprise. We have a systemic issue that is not being addressed. We have avoided the painful choices by drawing down the stabilization fund. It is no longer a smart fiscal choice to make. The choice remaining is to cut services (in this case educational services for our children) or raise taxes.
Put all the other arguments aside: Do you want to maintain our quality educational services or do we start cutting deeper than we have before?
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