Southborough Facing Tax Increases, Future Deficits

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Southborough taxpayers could face more than a 4 percent increase in their residential tax bills in fiscal year 2014.
Southborough taxpayers could face more than a 4 percent increase in their residential tax bills in fiscal year 2014. Photo Credit: Bret Matthew

SOUTHBOROUGH, Mass. — Southborough residents could see significant increases in their property tax bills if the town does not take action to improve its finances, selectmen said Tuesday.

In fiscal year 2014, the average Southborough homeowner could see his or her property taxes rise by 4.14 percent, or about $354, according to the town's preliminary budget.

In addition, the town will face a nearly $600,000 budget shortfall by FY15, according to a five-year financial estimate. If nothing changes until then, voters will be asked to cover the gap by overriding Proposition 2 1/2, which limits the amount of revenue a municipality may raise each year.

"This is not a business model built for success," Selectmen Chairman John Rooney said. "This is time for the town to seriously consider the way it does things and the way it operates, unless there is an appetite for serious tax increases."

He added that, in the past 10 years, average property tax bills in Southborough have increased from about $5,500 to more than $8,500. If the preliminary budget for FY14 is accepted, average bills could reach almost $9,000.

"There may have been some increase in services, but not very much," Rooney said. "The costs of running the town have increased."

The five-year estimate presented to selectmen paints a bleaker picture, projecting even larger deficits through FY18. However, Town Administrator Mark Purple pointed out that such estimates "start to get fuzzy" after the first two years. But he added that this does not change the deficit the town will face in FY15, due to an expected 5.5 percent drop in revenue coupled with a 2.1 increase in expenses.

"We're taking a look at every avenue we can," Purple said, mentioning the cost of insurance and retirements as areas to look for savings.

Selectmen on Tuesday also voted to create an Ad Hoc Economic Development Committee, which will be charged with proposing ways for the town to attract business investment. Though committee members have not yet been appointed, it will consist of business owners and non-profit leaders, as well as other interested parties.

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