Westborough selectmen seek information on ‘underride’ option
By Keith Regan, Contributing Writer
Westborough–The Board of Selectmen March 25 asked Town Manager Jim Malloy to gather information about whether a so-called “underride” of Proposition 2-½ would be an option for addressing voter concerns about limiting spending and the resulting impact on taxpayers.
Selectman Ian Johnson raised the topic, noting that neighboring Hopkinton is moving forward with an underride proposal during its upcoming town meeting cycle.
“This is not me advocating to do this. I just think there may be some options we have for the community to look at to lower taxes if at all possible,” Johnson said.
Malloy noted that he looked into the topic several years ago on behalf of the selectmen, who decided at the time not to go forward with the option, which reduces the amount the community can raise through taxation.
In Hopkinton’s case, as much as $1 million in excess levy capacity may be removed through an underride, though the proposal is still being finalized.
Proponents say the approach gives taxpayers confidence that their taxes will not skyrocket from year-to-year, since a community with excess capacity could raise taxes by more than 2 ½ percent if there is untapped capacity. Critics say the move can limit a community’s ability to respond to budget surprises.
Malloy said his recollection of his earlier investigation of the idea is that some communities that passed underrides were later forced to consider Proposition 2- ½ overrides much larger in size in order to fund their operating budgets.
Selectmen Chair George Barrette said he was intrigued by the idea, especially as an alternative to the response he received at Town Meeting for urging fiscal prudence by proposing reducing budget items that represented just a few thousand dollars out of an $85 million budget.
“This may be a better way to get at it more generally,” he said.
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