Projected property tax increase sits at $835 per average household

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Projected property tax increase sits at $835 per average household
The latest projection for the tax increase in Westborough stands at $835. (Photo/Laura Hayes)

WESTBOROUGH – As residents head to Westborough High School for the Annual Town Meeting on Saturday, March 23, the main buzz of discussion has been why property tax bills have jumped so much.

The increase for fiscal 2025 – pegged at nearly $1,000 for the average single-family home – has since been pared to $835.02, according to the Advisory Finance Committee’s Report and Recommendations.

Add in $3.98 for the Community Preservation Act, and $57.66 for Stormwater Utility, and the increase estimate becomes $896.66.

This includes the proposal to use $450,000 from free cash to lower the tax rate.

RELATED CONTENT: Average Westborough single-family tax increase falls to $853

According to interim Finance Director Jonathan Steinberg, the tax hike can be attributed to “budgetary factors,” including fixed costs and the school budget.

The total operating budget for fiscal 2025 is currently $136,082,596, or about 4.2% higher than fiscal 2024. 

Here’s a closer look at some of the increases, along with the tax impact:

Community Center – On March 13, the Select Board agreed to purchase 1500 Union St., a now-vacant building that formerly housed Boston Sports Clubs.

In October 2023, Town Meeting authorized a borrow of $8.8 million to purchase the site, which will be converted into a community center. The loan would be paid over 20 years, with an interest rate of 3.75%.

Total estimated impact for the 2025 fiscal year – $1,201,969 (includes $431,969 for operating expenses – wages, utilities and maintenance; and $770,000 for debt service, which will gradually decrease until it’s paid off in the 2042 fiscal year).

Total estimated impact for average single-family household – $147.84

Westborough Public Schools – Total estimated impact for the 2025 fiscal year – $66,996,333, or 5.4% over fiscal 2024. Most of the increase is attributed to contracted wage and salary adjustments ($3.4 million increase) and transportation ($143,000).

Total estimated impact for average single-family household – $427

Assabet Valley Regional Vocational Technical High School – $1,427,759, or 11% over fiscal 2024. The increase is due to the enrollment of nine more students from Westborough.

Total estimated impact for average single-family household – $28

Fixed Costs

Insurance – $17,470,651, or 8.29% over fiscal 2024. Estimated impact – $165

Electricity – $559,730, or 25.5% over fiscal 2024. Estimated impact – $14

Some budget increases are because certain positions have been absorbed into the operating budget after being funded through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). For example, the Fire Department funded one position with ARPA, and it is now within its operating budget.

These increases have been approved by the Advisory Finance Committee and the Select Board.

Behind the rollback

According to Town Manager Kristi Williams, the nearly $150 rollback in the property tax increase is because of several factors, including an increase in local tax receipts (hotel and meals taxes, excise bills, permits, etc.); a lower interest rate on bonds; and savings from the Harvey’s/Waste Management landfill budget.

Bonds – According to the town’s budget message, in fiscal 2025, the town will finance $84.4 million. School projects account for $44.5 million, while town building renovations make up another $11 million; $1.5 million go toward the Nourse Street Cemetery; $18.6 million will be for water and sewer projects; and $8.8 million will be permanently borrowed for the community center building acquisition.

At the time of the budget summit in January, the town was assuming a 5% interest rate on bonds. When the town went out to borrow in early March, the interest rates came in lower.

For example, the interest rate on the borrow for the community center, originally at 5%, was marked down to 3.75%.

According to Steinberg, the favorable rates lowered the town’s debt budget by $400,000.

He credited the lowered rates to the town’s fiscal management, which has helped maintain its AAA bond rating.

Landfill – For fiscal 2025, the budget for trash removal and recycling at the Transfer Station was originally pegged at $770,028. With the introduction of Pay As You Throw, which goes into effect July 1, the town anticipates less trash being hauled to Wheelabrator for incineration. With less trash, and lower tipping fees, the budget is now $727,500.

The warrant, and the report, are both available on the town’s website, www.westboroughma.gov.

Editor’s note: The print version of this article in the March 22 issue reported that the tax increase was $853 as we went to print prior to the release of the Advisory Finance Committee’s Report and Recommendations.

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