Reflection Connection: Are We Going to Need a General Override Next Year?
Next fiscal year, Groton Finance Committee has estimated that town expenditures could exceed the so-called levy limit by $750,000, possibly requiring an override vote by secret ballot at next year’s annual election. The Groton Finance committee and others have predicted that the town MAY need a series of overrides over the next several years to fund the schools and municipal services at current levels. Selectman Josh Degen and others proposed a large pre-emptive override to deal with the possible need for overrides. On the floor of Town Meeting Degen suggested that voters reject the budget because the town was not dealing with this override issue. FinCom member Bud Robertson rejected Degen’s proposal as unnecessary and irresponsible.
Below is a condensed version of Robertson’s response to Degen’s proposal at Annual Town Meeting. Robertson’s oral remarks were edited for written clarity.
We know there could be a budget issue next year. We don’t know it for sure. We don’t know how much money we’re going to need next year. We may not need any; we might need $750,000. We have put together a committee that’s going to be looking at this situation and ask whether we will need an override.
Maybe we will need an override, but when we get there we’re going to have an educated estimate of what we might need. We’re going to have a budget at that time that could say we have a $750,000 problem and here are the line items we need to address. We don’t know what an override might be because we have a $200,000 surplus this year. Next year is going to be different from this year so why even go for an override in a year when we don’t even know what the facts are for what the override might be?
We on the FinCom voted against an override for this year because we don’t even know what the issues may be. I believe it is wrong to cancel a budget this year because there might be an override next year. We should wait until next year and see what these issues are, so that we can solve those issues in the course of the year. Then next year, if we have to prioritize stuff, we’ll have the right stuff to prioritize.
We can take ‘this item’ or ‘that item’ out of the budget, or we might decide for an override. We can’t say what we’re going to take out now or what we’re going to add in because we already have everything in the budget [this year’s budget] that we believe the Select Board wanted. They voted for it. We [The FinCom] voted for it. We’re asking you [the voeters at Toen Meeting] to vote for it. If we have an issue next year we will deal with it. If we have to cut stuff out of the budget, we will cut stuff out. If the voters want an override next year to keep services where it is, then that’s what they can do.