LETTER: "The Herald's editorial had the effect of frightening many" Peter Cunningham
Not quite sure where to start after reading last week's editorial about backing into an 'unintended funding trap' other than to hope it was not the intention of the editor to pit the legitimate needs of the town against the equally legitimate needs of our regional school district. Perhaps a good place to begin would be 'recap sheet 101' since it is obvious this sort of tutorial would go a long way to dispelling the underlying presumption in the editorial.
The editor assumes the only available new revenue each year is the 2½ percent that can be added to the prior fiscal years levy limit. This is inaccurate since other sources of revenue that make up our budget each year include state aid, motor vehicle excise tax, general revenue receipts (building permits and other types of local fees), unexpended tax capacity and ambulance receipts. Together for FY2014 these available sources of revenue total more than $4 million dollars. Much of this will be dedicated to the FY2014 operating budget of the town and regional school district, but even with the projected fire station debt service of $500,000 per year, there is still an additional $500,000 in unexpended tax capacity to meet other budgetary needs including our schools. Therefore, seeking an override of Proposition 2½ would be unnecessary to meet any capital needs of the regional school district that could be accommodated by a yearly debt service of $500,000.
Municipal finance in Massachusetts is not for the faint of heart and can be quite convoluted. The Herald's editorial has had the effect of frightening many who feel our school district will somehow be shortchanged by the plan to fund our new fire station. It is unfortunate the editor did not take the time to research and learn more about how the town's budget is put together and how revenue sources are calculated.
Peter S. Cunningham