Frequently Asked Questions

About the FY25 Budget & Process

Updated 05.21.2024

This document has been reflected to update the new override proposal figures.  If you have a question that you do not see an answer to, please reach out to the Town Administrator for further assistance,

Section 1 - General Budget Questions

  1. What was the Town’s total budget last year (FY24)?

In FY24, the Town’s total budget (Town, School & Town Meeting Articles) was $15,771,416.

Town – $7,639,944
Schools- $7,976,423
WRSD - $7,477,459
Bay Path - $498,964
Town Articles - $138,786

  • Greenways -  $1,100
  • Road Stabilization - $118,870
  • ATM A#3 Lawn Mower $4,666
  • ATM A#4 Ditcher Head $14,150        
  1. What was the deficit last year (FY24)?

The estimated deficit in FY24 was approximately $500,000.We were able to account for the deficit by doing the following:

  • $90k - Increase Ambulance receipts used
  • $86k – Add Operating Stabilization
  • $30k – Redirect spending for MS4 work to be paid by ARPA
  • $100k – Reduction to town budgets
  • $50k – WRSD came in $50k less than expected
  • $170k – Health insurance came in less than expected and was not an increase
  1. What is free cash?

Free cash in its most simple terms, is the remaining balance of unspent expenses and revenues that exceeded estimates for the prior fiscal year.To learn more about Free Cash, the Division of Local Services has a summary sheet that can be found here; and a 7 minute YouTube video on the topic.

  1. What makes up the deficit for FY25?

When using all available revenue sources (including $500k in Free Cash and $400k in Ambulance Receipts), the Town still has a shortfall of $840k in order to balance the proposed FY25 budget.

In simple terms, there are not enough anticipated new revenues for FY25 to cover the anticipated costs of continuing the Town’s current services.  As shown below, we anticipate $408,578 in new revenues for the Tax Levy, State Aid, and Local Receipts.  As a result of depending on other one time reserves last year to balance the budget, any reduction or shortfall in those estimated amounts will also contribute to the deficit, which include a lower amount of available free cash and operating stabilization funds.  Lastly, our new expenses for FY25 come to about $1.1M, the difference is depicted here.

  1. What is the Town's Current debt that is owed and the current debt schedule?

 The Town's current debt schedule can be found here.  The Town has a few projects that are exempt and a few that are non-exempt.  Exempt debt, such as that for the Public Safety Building, had to be approved as a debt exclusion by the voters at an election and the amount owed is funded directly through taxes raised each year for that purpose until the project is complete, and not funded within the Town's other revenue sources. Once the project is complete, the amount of taxes raised for that project goes away.

On the other hand, non-exempt debt is funded within the Town's Levy Limit.  The Town currently has four projects that are funded within the Town's Levy Limit: (1) 2009 DPW Building renovations (ends in FY26); (2) 2009 School Window project (ends in FY28); (3) 2021 DPW Truck/Paving Project (ends in FY28); and (4) 2022 DPW Freightliner (ends in 2029).  

The Town's debt policy can be found here, under A3 Debt Management.

Section II - Proposition 2 1/2 Questions

  1. How does Proposition 2 ½ work?

Division of Local Services (DLS) has a number of videos and materials available on their website that explain what Proposition 2 ½ is, how it came about, and what it does.In the most simplest terms, Proposition 2 ½ is a law that restricts the Town’s ability to annually increase the base tax levy to 2.5% of the prior year’s number.

  1. Can my taxes go up by more than 2 1/2% each year?

The real and personal property taxes may only grow each year by 2½ percent of the prior year’s levy limit, plus new growth and any overrides or exclusions. However, the actual increase can vary. The Division of Local Services has a publication on Tax Levies, Assessed Values, and Tax Rates published in 2023 that can be found here.

  1. If an override is approved, will it be permanent?

Yes, in Massachusetts, if a town passes a Proposition 2 1/2 override for their operating budget, it is indeed permanent. The amount of the override becomes a permanent part of the levy limit and increases by 2 1⁄2 percent each year after its acceptance. The override revenue is “earmarked” for specific purposes in the first year it is available, but in subsequent years, it becomes an indistinguishable part of the revenue base.  The Division of Local Services created a handout for overrides and exclusions which can be found here.  The Division of Local Services also has a number of Prop 2 ½ information YouTube videos available here. 

      4. Why is there no signage throughout Town talking about the override?

The limited signage about an upcoming Proposition 2 1/2 operating budget override in Town could be due to the restrictions imposed by the Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF) and Conflict of Interest (COI) laws.

According to the OCPF, public employees are generally restricted from using public resources in connection with campaign or political activity. This includes the use of public buildings and other public resources for campaigns.

Similarly, the State Ethics Commission’s COI law restricts public employees from using their official positions to secure unwarranted privileges or exemptions of substantial value that are not properly available to similarly situated individuals. This includes restrictions on the extent to which public employees may engage in political activity in their public roles, or use public resources in connection with such political activity.. State Ethics Commission Advisory 11:1 – Public Employee Political Activity can be found here.

  1. What is/are the question(s) that voters will see on the ballot pertaining to the override?

There is one question on the ballot asking voters whether they support an increase in taxes in the amount of $950,000 dollars to support the Town’s Operating Budget.  The specific language of the ballot question is governed by MGL’s and is below:

Question 1
"Shall the Town of Paxton be allowed to assess an additional ­$950,000 in real estate and personal property taxes for the purposes of funding the operating budget of the Town for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2024?" - Yes - No

6. Has the Town had prior overrides?*

Yes.  The Town’s last override for the operating budget was a two-part override in 2018, $100k for the Town and $300k for the School. A history of all of Paxton’s override back to 2019 can be found here. The Division of Local Services (DLS) has a summary page showing the Town's most recent fiscal year votes on overrides.  

7. If the Article at Special Town Meeting passes at Town Meeting and the proposed override passes at the Ballot, how much will my taxes increase?*

The FY24 tax rate per thousand is $16.07, the estimated FY25 tax rate per thousand with the proposed override would be $17.28 per thousand.  An estimated tax rate for FY25 based on the proposed override can be viewed here.  For a more precise calculation, one would use their property’s assessed value and multiply it by .01728.  To find one’s assessed value, one can go to the Town’s website here and search by your address.

8. What is the history of the Tax Rate increases in Paxton?

The Division of Local Services has a breakdown of the tax rates for Paxton over the pass several years.  While the take rate has gone down for the past four consecutive years, as seen here, the average tax bill as increased steadily, as seen here. The tax increases for the average tax payer in Town over the past several years increased by 2.7%, 2.3%, 4.1%, and then 1.7% from FY23 to FY24.

Section III - Town Meeting Questions

 1. On the Special Town Meeting Warrant for the meeting scheduled for Thursday, June 27th, there is an article that will be dependent on the passage of an override for $950,000, what would the Town cover in addition to the $840,000 budget deficit?*

The override contingent budget question on the Special Town Meeting Warrant,  would allow the town to raise an additional $950,000 in taxes.  The $950,000 covers the entire shortfall of $840k, and allows the Town to transfer the $110k balance to Stabilization funds in the same article, specific amounts to be determined before the meeting. 

2. What would the Town’s budget look like in the event an override does not pass?*

There will be an article on Special Town Meeting warrant article that represents the Town’s budget that is not contingent on an override.  This budget utilizes $500k in Free Cash, $400k in Ambulance Receipts Reserved, and requires reduced Town services to make up for an $840k budget gap.  Details of the non-override contingent budget can be found here and are further detailed in the Town’s FY25 budget presentation.

Section IV- Senior Resident Questions

  1. What can the Town do to help seniors with the tax increase?

The Town of Paxton provides several programs to assist seniors with tax increases. One such program is the Senior Tax Work-Off program. This program allows eligible senior homeowners to earn up to $750 in credit towards their tax bill by working for the Town. The program is limited to 10 participants per fiscal year. The most recent information about this program can be obtained from the Town’s website here.

In addition to the work-off program, some seniors may qualify for a senior tax exemption. The Town offers various tax exemptions, and seniors may be eligible for certain ones, such as the Senior Low Income Exemption. The specific details about these exemptions, including eligibility criteria and application process, can be obtained from the Assessor’s Office.  One can obtain more information can be obtained by calling the Assessor’s Office at (508) 799-7231. 

Section V - Town Operations Questions

  1. What constitutes playground maintenance for the recreation dept?

The playground located at the Paxton Center School is owned and maintained by the Paxton Recreation Department. Regular maintenance consists of inspecting the equipment and making necessary repairs. It also consists of adding mulch to the playground to keep the required depth of mulch under said equipment. 

  1. What does MS4 stand for?

A Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) is a network of drainage systems, including pipes, ditches, and other conveyances, designed to carry stormwater runoff directly to nearby streams, rivers, and other bodies of water. MS4s are distinct from sanitary sewers, which carry sewage and industrial wastewater to treatment facilities. The MS4 program is a regulatory framework established by EPA, under the authority of the Clean Water Act National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES), to treat these stormwater conveyance systems as a point source discharge.

3. What is the Town doing to bring businesses to Town?*

The Town has taken several steps towards bringing more business to Town.  First, the Town has worked hard over the past few years to foster a business-friendly building department to work closely with business.  Second, the Town received a $75k State Earmark for the revision/update of the Town’s Zoning Bylaws with the help of Central Mass Regional Planning Commission (CMRPC)- reviewing where businesses are currently allowed in Town and updating the Zoning to make things more business friendly.  Third, the Select Board have established an Economic Development Committee, details of which can be found here, to work with businesses to identify what hurdles they face in Paxton and how the town can better work with businesses.