Tax-Limiting Citizen Petition Faces Town Meeting Battle
Advisory finance committee and selectmen both say the article wouldn't be binding.
A citizen petition to limit Westborough’s tax rate increase to 0 percent or less for fiscal years 15 and 16 faces opposition at Saturday’s annual town meeting.
The advisory finance committee has voted 7-1-1 to recommend defeating the proposal, the last of the 17 articles on the warrant. Selectmen recently voted 5-0 to recommend defeating the article.
“Article 17 calls for a two-year cap on the tax rate. Consideration of the rationale for this article will lead to a discussion of whether property taxes are too high and/or increasing too rapidly,” the report states.
“The advisory finance committee welcomes this discussion as an opportunity to gauge the opinions of town meeting participants. However, there are several reasons why a majority of advisory finance committee members did not feel they could support this article.
“Town Counsel has stated that Article 17, if passed, would not be binding -- it would have no force. Also, town meeting cannot entirely control the tax rate since valuations (provided by the assessor) are part of the tax rate calculations; town meeting can only control expenditures.
“At the time of the annual town meeting, it is impossible to predict accurately the tax rate for the following fiscal year. (Note that the valuation and tax rate numbers given in this report are labeled as estimates.) Final tax rates for residential and commercial property are calculated and voted by the selectmen the following fall.”
The article asks "to see if the town will vote to limit the tax rate for FY15 and FY16 to (a) 0% increase or less over (the) FY14 tax rate. This will require that the finance advisory committee produce a budget that shows the impact on town services. This article is designed to direct the selectmen to pursue policies that will result in no increase in real estate taxes for two fiscal years."
Ruggles Street resident Stephen Faris, one of the article’s proponents, told Westborough Patch recently that he recognized that the request is "not binding.”
“However, if it passes by a good majority, they can't ignore it, because it's something that enough people have voted for,” he said.
Faris said "the taxpayers of Westborough need to have some kind of limit put on" tax increases.
"If that's what it comes down to, yes, it could mean cuts,” he said.
Selectmen recently took positions on the town meeting articles.
"We're not saying we're against controlling taxes. We're saying this is an irrelevant article, so we're voting to defeat the article,” Selectman Denny Drewry said.
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