Georgetown Faces $3 million Override

Tuesday March 12, 2024

Georgetown Welcome Sign

GEORGETOWN – Property owners here are facing the possibility of a hefty tax increase to overcome a shortfall in revenues that has been years in the making.
The Finance Advisory Committee voted unanimously last week to move forward with a proposal to the Board of Selectmen and Town Meeting members that the total tax burden be raised by $3 million for 2025.
Because the increase would exceed the state ceiling of no more than 2.5 percent, the proposal must be approved at Town Meeting May 6 and a week later at the Town Election.
Projections are that the proposal would increase taxes on a $628,000 home, the average priced home in Georgetown, by $975 per year.
The measure must be approved by the Board of Selectmen before it is put on the Town Meeting warrant.
“This does not make any of us comfortable, but we have to do it,” said Ed Dubie, chair of the Finance Advisory Committee.
Anticipating that the tax increase will not be popular, Town Administrator Orlando Pacheco told the Finance Advisory Committee that he planned to employ Guilfoil Public Relations at $500 a month to run a campaign to inform residents of the need for the tax increase.
For several years, town revenues have been declining, particularly from the $500,000 a year loss in cannabis host payments, while expenses to fund improvements in the schools and in the police and fire department were postponed. The town has dipped into reserve funds in recent years to cover expenses.
“We’ve been living on our savings. Now it is time to pay the price,” Dubie said.
Dubie’s concern was what the town would have to do if the tax increase is rejected at Town Meeting or at the ballot box. The committee is meeting again next week to hear Pacheco outline the budget cuts that will have to be made if the increased is voted down.
Pacheco told the committee the town has $575,000 in capital improvement reserves, $1.8 million in its stabilization fund and more than $1 million in free cash. The stabilization fund is off limits, he said, because the credit rating agencies insist that a town of Georgetown’s size keep at least $1.7 million for the worst-case scenarios.
The proposed school budget would increase by 6.32 percent to allow the school to revise the curriculum over the next several years to enhance the overall student performance. The school budget projects losing 10 to 11 teachers.
The proposed increase would also allow the police department to hire two more full-time officers, which has been a priority, and the fire department could add three more firefighters.
Health insurance for town employees, a major expensive, would run about $3.5 million, Pacheco said.

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