Letter: Here's why a budget override is being considered in Westport

Posted 1/26/22

To the editor:

Ever since the drastic reduction in state aid starting in 2008, Westport’s revenue growth has been outpaced by its expense growth, and thus, each year, the deficit problem …

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Letter: Here's why a budget override is being considered in Westport

Posted

To the editor:

Ever since the drastic reduction in state aid starting in 2008, Westport’s revenue growth has been outpaced by its expense growth, and thus, each year, the deficit problem continues to magnify. At the June 5, 2021 Annual Town Meeting, the Westport Finance Committee discussed the urgency of the need to address the town’s long-standing chronic structural deficit.

The 2023 budget review is underway and the deficit issue is greater this year than in the past. Many options are being evaluated for the fiscal 2023 proposed budget. 
In order to eliminate this recurring deficit from continuing to repeat every year, the budget will need to reflect a permanent and systemic change by either increasing recurring revenues or cuts to expenses which will likely affect the town’s ability to maintain its current level of municipal services.
Since the town is limited in its ability to increase recurring revenues because of: (1) limitations on property tax increases imposed by Proposition 2 ½, (2) reduced state aid allocated to Westport, and (3) slow growth of local receipts and other new revenue sources, Westport is not able at this time to increase its revenues enough to keep up with the pace of the expense growth.

Presently, the finance committee is reviewing drafts of the fiscal 2023 budget with expense cuts in many departments throughout the town, including public safety, education, public works, and general government. 
The finance committee is committed to working with the select board, school committee, and all other department heads to consider all alternatives for addressing the collective needs of the entire Town of Westport. It is currently meeting with all department heads regarding their budgets and service needs, and expects to have concluded these meetings in February.

Among the alternatives being seriously considered is the recommendation for the adoption of an override budget for FY 2023.  After these meetings have concluded, we will have a better estimate of what the dollar amount of any proposed override may be, along with the estimated effect on an average tax bill.

The finance committee is presently discussing the presentation of a second budget (override budget) at Town Meeting which would incorporate additional revenues from property taxes to fund supplemental department budget allocations to address the departments’ budget needs. An override budget would require appropriation at Town Meeting, and would be expressly contingent upon approval by the voters of a Proposition 2 ½ override question at an election.

Finance committee members believe this may well be the best option for the Town of Westport and is pursuing it as an alternative solution for the voters to consider.The finance committee meetings are public meetings and anyone is invited to attend (presently all meetings are remote).  Meetings are also available on local access cable and on the town’s Vimeo channel (link available on town’s website “View Meetings” or by this web address
https://vimeopro.com/westportcommunitytv/wctv)
Please get informed and get involved. 

Karen Raus

Editor's note: Raus is chairwoman of the Westport Finance Committee.

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