Does Rehoboth Face a Fiscal Crisis? What you need to know.
ANSWERS TO YOUR QUESTIONS . . . Where are we? How did we get here? Why do we need another Special Town Meeting? What does passing a temporary budget mean? Will town government shut down on July 1st? What is a tax override vote? What happens if the tax override does not pass? What can be cut from the budget? What about tax exemptions?
Where are we? How did we get here?
Information Courtesy: RehobothNow.com
MAY 2014: Residents voted at town meeting to increase the school budget assessment (or what Rehoboth pays into the D-R Regional School District budget) against the recommended balanced budget of the board of selectmen and finance committee. The result: the town faces a shortfall of nearly $1.7 million dollars to fund all the other operating expenses of the town. The proposed FY15 town budget (except the already approved increased school budget) was then approved by residents contingent on a tax override ballot vote. JUNE 2014: A special town meeting is scheduled for Monday, June 30 so residents can vote on approving a temporary 90-day budget based on FY14 figures. Without a new yearly budget to begin on July 1, the town faces a shut down. No budget. No money. No services. JULY 2014: Potential shut down of municipal government if temporary budget is not approved by voters on June 30. Voters will come to the polls on Tuesday, July 15 to vote yes or not on a tax override. If the override is passed, itâ€™s back to business as usual in Rehoboth. AUGUST 2014: If the tax override vote on July 15 does not pass, voters will be called to another STM in August (tentatively Aug. 11 or 18) to determine how to cut the townâ€™s operating budget by $1,658,740 to make up for the equivalent increase in the school budget. Officials warn that Rehoboth, as you know it today, will change drastically faced with almost $1.7 million in cuts. Other than education, according to officials, everything will face significant changes including town employee layoffs (including public safety depts.), closing non-essential services such as the library and senior center, reducing the hours at the town office, and limiting departmental services (such as highway, forestry, animal shelter) or even possible elimination of many services -- all to be discussed and determined at a special town meeting. The hard choices on funding cuts will be made by voters, but selectmen are allowed to make recommendations based on their knowledge and experience. Voters also have the option of voting to use monies from the Stabilization Fund (simply defined as money put away for stabilizing the budget in dire circumstances). Any combination of cuts and or other funding, such as stabilization funds, may be used to make up the nearly $1.7M shortfall in the budget.
Why do we need another Special Town Meeting? A Special Town Meeting (STM) has been called for Monday, June 30 at 7 PM in the DRRHS auditorium. Residents have been mailed a copy of the warrant that contains three articles. Seventy-five (75) registered voters are required for a quorum to conduct the meeting. If a quorum is not met, the June 30 meeting will be cancelled. This means the Town of Rehoboth will have no approved working budget to begin the new fiscal year on July 1, 2014. Without an approved budget, there will be no municipal government. To avoid a shutdown, voters must approve a temporary budget at STM on June 30.
IMPORTANT FACTS STM Article 1: FY2015 INTERIM APPROPRIATION BUDGET “To see if the Town will appropriate a sum of funds to defray expenses of the Town of the ninety (90) days of Fiscal Year 2015, said interim appropriation being required to fund Town government in advance of a vote on an operating override, or take any action in relation thereto.” NOTE: the article does not include the word “first” 90-days of FY2015, but that is assumed. STM Article 2: CHAPTER E ZONE BYLAWS FLOODPLAIN DISTRICT This article was submitted by the Planning Board, and Building Inspector related to a bylaw amendment related to district floodplain delineation and regulations (including wetlands protection and Dept. of Environmental Protection related issues). NOTE: any new town bylaw or bylaw amendment must be approved by voters. It is presumed this article was submitted for inclusion in the warrant for reasons that will be shared by officials at the meeting. STM Article 3: OTHER BUSINESS Included as a measure “to vote to transact other business” as brought before voters that night. Both officials and voters can motion for other business issues to be addressed. NOTE: it is important for voters to remain for the duration of any town meeting as the “other business” article item may allow motions for amendments and/or various procedural maneuvering.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Printing paper warrants and mailing them to Rehoboth households costs money. When quorum is not met, the meeting does not happen. Another must be scheduled and another warrant printed and mailed. There are other expenses associated with scheduling and conducting a town meeting or an election. When voters don’t bother to participate, the money spend on the process is wasted -- your tax dollars wasted. The town clerk has prepared a bylaw modification, hopefully placed on an upcoming ATM warrant, to remove the paper mailing requirement from our town bylaw and rely on electronic transmission via email. The warrants are already available online and can be printed at home if someone wants a paper copy.
What does passing a temporary budget mean? Because residents voted at town meeting to increase the school budget assessment (or what Rehoboth pays into the D-R Regional School District budget), the town faces a shortfall of nearly $1.7 million dollars ($1,658,740 to be exact) to fund the operating expenses of the town. PASSING A TEMPORARY BUDGET Selectmen have said the temporary 90-day budget, if passed, will be based on current FY14 budget and NOT the FY15 budget approved at town meeting contingent on the tax override ballot vote.
Will the town government shut down on July 1? If residents do not vote at STM on June 30 for the temporary 90-day budget (based on FY14 budget figures), the Town of Rehoboth will not be “open for business” the next day on July 1. According to selectmen, the town “cannot fund any non-educational municipal services including police, fire, library, and senior center.” NO . . . Municipal government will not shut down if the temporary 90-day budget is passed by voters at the STM on June 30. YES . . . Municipal government will have no choice than to shut down if the temporary 90-day budget is passed by voters at the STM on June 30. What then? Another STM could be scheduled, but that requires 14-day public notice. So, the town could be without any services for weeks until townspeople can gather and vote once again to pass a temporary budget.
VOTING PRECINCTS AND HOURS - TUESDAY, JULY 15 All three voting precincts will be open from 7 AM to 8 PM. Precinct 1 is located at the Town Office on Peck Street. Precinct 2 is the Gladys Hurrell Senior Center on Bay State Road. Precinct 3 is located at the South Rehoboth Fire Station on Pleasant Street. Voters who don’t know where they should go to cast a ballot are encouraged to inquire with the Town Clerk’s Office at the town office on Peck Street.
What is a Tax Override Ballot Question? Because the majority of residents at the May Annual Town Meeting voted to make FY15 budget contingent on a tax override vote, a special ballot vote has been scheduled for Tuesday, July 15. Some may be confused about the term ballot question. Registered voters go to the polls, just like an election, to vote “Yes” or “No” on one question.
JULY 15 BALLOT QUESTION: YES OR NO Shall the Town of Rehoboth be allowed to assess an additional $1,658,740 in real estate and personal property taxes for the purposes of funding the general operations of Town Government for Fiscal Year 2015?
IF YOU VOTE ‘YES’ If the majority votes ‘yes’ on the ballot question, real estate and personal property taxes of Rehoboth residents will be raised. Your taxes will be raised permanently by approximately $355/year for an average single-family residence.
What happens if the override does not pass? Cuts will be made from the FY15 town budget, except for the school portion and certain financial and contractual obligations that cannot be altered. Some of these are debts (principal and interest), along with expenses such as Medicare Tax Fund, employee health and life insurance, town insurance, unemployment compensation, and employee pension fund. Other contractual obligations under union contracts cannot be altered. If town employees are laid off, the town must fulfill its legal obligations for those collecting unemployment comp.
IF YOU VOTE ‘NO’ If the majority votes “no” on the ballot question, another Special Town Meeting will be called in August (probably August 11 or 18) so that voters can determine exactly how to deal with the $1,658,740. shortfall in the budget. Voters will be charged with determining budget cuts and/or also using alternative funding, such as part or all of the stabilization fund.
Important Facts About the Town Budget WHAT IS ON THE TOWN BUDGET? The Finance Committee recommended a $22,150.450 total budget for FY15, representing a 2.87% change from FY14 including the recommended $13,402,817 for the school department (or 0.62% increase from FY14). However, voters approved an increase of 14.68%, or a budget of $15,275.292. That created the shortfall of nearly $1.7M.
NO CUTTING ALLOWED financial and/or contractual obligations that cannot be altered Pension - $649,504 Health and Life Insurance - $784,408 Medicare Tax Fund - $52,000 Unemployment Comp - $ 10,000 Town Insurance - $338,692 Interest for Senior Center - $15,000 Principal for Senior Center - $100,000 Vocational/Technical Tuition - $267,900 Bristol Agricultural Tuition - $44,642 Note: the two tuition obligations are for Rehoboth high school students going out-ofdistrict. This is not part of the school district assessment.
COULD BE ON THE CHOPPING BLOCK cuts may be made within these total budgets, that includes personnel General Government - $1,266,161 Town Buildings Utilities and Maintenance - $177,070 Public Safety Budget - $3,243,154 (police, fire, animal control, inspectors) Highway Department- $1,052,190 (road maintenance, snow & ice, etc.) Health and Human Resources - $501,479 (senior center, veterans, ) Zoning and Conservation - $14,532 (wages, salaries, expenses) Culture and Recreation - $230,901 (Library, Parks, Memorial Day) Note: funding for military veteransâ€™ benefits comes from the federal government, those canâ€™t be cut locally. But maintaining veterans graves and veterans memorial sites can be cut. So can maintenance of all Rehoboth historic cemeteries, a part of the highway dept. budget.
What about tax exemptions? In Massachusetts, the property tax is assessed by cities and towns to fund local services. Municipalities operate on a fiscal year that begins on July 1 and ends the following June 30. Taxes are assessed as of the January 1 before the beginning of the fiscal year to the owner of record on that date. Taxes are a single liability payable in two or four installments during the fiscal year depending on the type of payment system the municipality uses. Source: MassGov
IMPORTANT FACTS A disabled veteran in Massachusetts may receive a property tax exemption on his/her primary residence of $400 if 10 percent disabled, $750 the veteran lost the use of one hand, one foot or one eye, $1,250 if the veteran lost the use of both hands, both feet or a combination of the two, or if the veteran is blind in both eyes as a result of service. A veteran may receive a $1,000 exemption if 100 percent disabled as a result of service. Massachusetts law allows cities and towns to give real estate tax exemptions to seniors, the blind, surviving spouses and minor children, homeowners facing hardships, and certain disabled veterans who meet financial, residency, and other eligibility requirements. Cities and towns with property tax work-off programs can give abatements to senior volunteers who meet eligibility requirements. Rehoboth would have to adopt this state statute on tax exemption. Source: MassGov Institutions and organizations, such as hospitals, schools, churches and cultural facilities, may qualify for exemption from local taxes on their real and personal property. These exemptions are found in various clauses of Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 59, Section 5 (M.G.L. c. 59, ยง 5). However, a religious or charitable organization is not automatically exempt from local taxation when it organizes or acquires property. It must meet specific eligibility criteria and follow certain procedures to obtain an exemption. Source: MassGov Copyright 2014
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