SOUTHBOROUGH, Mass. — The average tax bill for Southborough homeowners may increase at a lower rate than predicted in fiscal year 2014, Finance Director Brian Ballantine told selectmen Tuesday.
In the most recent version of the proposed fiscal year 2014 budget, the town's tax rate would rise from $16.54 in fiscal year 2013 to $16.80. This would amount to a 1.6 percent increase, or about $137 per homeowner, Ballantine said. Last month, the town's preliminary fiscal year 2014 budget estimated that taxes would increase by 4.14 percent, or $354 per homeowner on average.
Ballantine attributed the decline to the state's assessment figures for Algonquin Regional High School. "They dropped quite a bit significantly," he said. Recently, the state determined that Northborough will pay $800,000 more for its share of the regional school budget than it did last year, while Southborough's total will drop by about $13,000. To compensate, Superintendent Charles Gobron cut $177,000 from his proposed budget.
The state's decision came at a stark contrast to the last few years, when Southborough took on a higher burden due to the state's "wealth factor."
However, Southborough's long-term financial picture remained bleak despite some improvements, Ballantine said. Unlike previous estimates, the town will not need a Proposition 2 1/2 override in fiscal year 2015, but it may need one in fiscal year 16 due to rising expenses and falling revenue.
"I'm still concerned by what fiscal year 2015 looks like, as I think we all should be," Selectman Chairman John Rooney said.
Rooney also pointed out that this year's budget process is not over, and that union negotiations are still ongoing. The $137 figure, he said, "represents the best-case scenario, not taking account the four collective bargaining agreements going on right now." He said it might end up closer to $200. "I'm trying to paint myself into one corner, and that's reality."