June 24, 2014 07:54PM
By CYNTHIA DRUMMOND
Sun Staff Writer
HOPKINTON — When Hopkinton residents vote on the town’s 2014-15 budget on Tuesday, they will also be voting on an increase in the property tax rate, from $19.77 per $1,000 of valuation to $21.24, or 7.4 percent.
Town Council President Frank Landolfi said the rate reflects lower property valuations and that the net result for most taxpayers should be a lower tax payment for the second year in a row. The motor vehicle tax will remain the same, at $21.18 per $1,000.
“The town lost approximately $87 million on property valuations townwide,” he said. “The result is $1.6 million in lost revenue, so we had to make that up, balance the tax rate with the lower assessed value.”
The overall $24.5 million budget is only $31,966 higher than the current spending plan. The municipal government’s portion of the budget will increase by nearly 4 percent to $5.8 million.
The town benefited from a reduction of more than $250,000 in the amount it contributes to the Chariho Regional School District. That decrease, attributed to lower student enrollment, will leave the town with an $18.2 million contribution to the district. Hopkinton will also receive $93,000 in state aid for education.
One of the town’s major expenses in the coming fiscal year will be $94,000 for police pensions. “We had four people leave in 2012,” Town Manager William McGarry noted in his budget presentation to the Town Council in February, referring to the recent retirees.
Another factor is the 2 percent raise that town employees are scheduled to receive in the second year of their three-year contract. They received no raises in the current year.
Other major expenses include $40,000 for road repairs and maintenance and $60,000 for the second lease payment on a new street sweeper.
The budget calls for spending $77,000 for two new police cruisers, and it is putting aside $234,000 for the Town Hall consolidation project. The money set aside to expand Town Hall and bring together all the town offices will total $1.18 million next year. The project is expected to cost $1.69 million.
The town’s proposed capital budget is $462,000. Landolfi explained that in an effort to keep the tax increase as low as possible, the council decided to use money from the town’s fund balance to prepay the coming year’s capital improvement plan.
“We prepaid the entire year’s CIP with the fund balance. We have to pay for that, anyway, but if you have extra money in your checkbook, you can help your cash flow,” he said, noting that the council’s strategy had resulted in a tax reduction of approximately $500,000, or between 50 and 60 cents per $1,000 valuation.
The town has been operating under an “alternative” budget, the 2011-12 budget that remained in effect after the voters’ rejection of the town’s 2012-13 budget on June 11 of last year.
The budget defeat was a first for the town.
Landolfi warned that the tax rate in the coming year would rise even higher, from $21.24 to $21.35, if voters do not approve the proposed spending plan and the alternative budget takes effect for another year.
“The overall tax rate on this proposed budget will be lower than the alternate, if it doesn’t get approved. I want people to be mindful of that,” he said. “I still think that with our revaluation townwide, taxes should be lower for most residents for the second year in a row.”
The poll, located at the Town Hall, will be open on Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.