Voters Will Decide Georgetown $3 Million Tax Increase

Tuesday March 19, 2024

Georgetown Town Hall

GEORGETOWN – Whether taxpayers here will see a large, permanent tax increase next year will be decided by the voters on May 13, not by the Town Meeting on May 6, as previously thought.
Town Administrator Orlando Pacheco told the SelectBoard last week that he had confirmed with the town’s attorney that the proposed $3 million property tax override would not be on the Town Meeting warrant.
State law requires a majority of voters approve an override if taxes are to be raised more than 2.5 percent.
The Finance Advisory Committee voted unanimously earlier to move forward with a proposed tax increase to cover a projected increase in town expenses and a significant reduction in town revenues, mostly from $500,000 in lost revenues previously paid by cannabis shops.
The SelectBoard postponed approving the proposed tax override, but several members were clearly upset by the prospect of raising taxes by such a large amount.
Projections are that the proposal would increase taxes on a $628,000 home, the average priced home in Georgetown, by $975 per year.
“It’s a tough sell,” said Selectman Daryle Lamonica. “We are basically telling people you can’t afford to live here.” He noted there are 2,000 residents over the age of 65, many of whom live on fixed income.
SelectBoard member Rachel Bancroft asked if the tax increase could be postponed a year to help those who are not able to pay the higher tax bill. She said this increase would come on the back of higher property appraisals last year that resulted in increased taxes.
Finance Advisory Committee member Alicia Raspa said the town had put off tax increases in previous years and could no longer delay an increase.
“It may be difficult for some people,” Pacheco said. “But if it is not approved, we will have to come back with a very different budget.”
If the voters turn down the proposed override, the town will have to cut $3 million out of its budget. “Some people who work here now will not,” Pacheco said.
To keep voters informed about the probable tax increase, the SelectBoard is planning to hire the Guilfoil Public Relations firm for a year. The police and fire departments already use the firm to keep the public informed, and both Police Chief David Sedgwick and Fire Chief Matthew McKay told the SelectBoard they recommend Guilfoil.
Pacheco told the SelectBoard the fee for Guilfoil will be $7,200 for the 12 months, plus $5,000 for the firm to build a web page to keep the public informed about the increase in taxes.
Some of the proposed budget increase for the town will be to hire more police officers and firefighters, which has been on the town’s priority list for years. The chiefs told the SelectBoard the increases in personnel were needed.
The proposed increase would also pay for an anticipated larger school budget. The school committee has not yet approved the higher budget that Superintendent Dr. Margo Ferrick has said is needed to improve academic performance.
Pacheco said he knows of 10 to 12 other towns that are considering tax overrides this year. He blamed it in part on the state legislature that approved the end of the cannabis payments to towns.
Pacheco also blamed the financial woes of some towns on the state’s refusal to fund the towns appropriately.

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