Guest Post by Arthur Green
There’s been lively discussion on Facebook regarding my estimate of the tax impact of the 2017/18 TRSD budget scheduled for public hearing on Jan. 12.
On Speakout Danville Facebook page today, Mr. Rob Collins (Danville) has disparaged the credibility of the estimate by reference to last year’s budget debate:
“For this tax year (2016) the Greens predicted, in Feb. 2016, increases by town as follows.
- Atkinson +9.4%
- Danville +8.6%
- Plaistow +6.9%
- Sandown +13.8%
They later had to correct their overestimation when more accurate information became available in October.
- Danville +4.1%
- Plaistow +3.5%
- Sandown +9.1%
…As you can see, not accurate. It’s very likely the same can be said about the current estimates but we won’t know until more accurate information is available, in fall 2017.”
What Mr. Collins describes as the Greens’ prediction is actually the TRSD handout from Deliberative Session, February 2016. The 2-page section on tax impact was somehow omitted from the deliberative materials posted on the TRSD web site, but never fear, here’s my copy. (Note: Mr. Collins reference is to this blog entry following deliberative, which is absolutely explicit about the source of the data. Mr. Collins is counting on you to not click.)
Mr. Collins paints a picture of the Greens shamefacedly retracting their wild predictions. Here’s the blog where I announced the final tax impacts, actually a breaking news entry, based on me obtaining the Cooperative Apportionment worksheet from our (gracious and helpful) town clerk Lynn Blaisdell as soon as it was available. To my knowledge, this information has not been published anywhere else and is normally made available to taxpayers only as part of the TRSD annual report in February.
If Mr. Collins considers my estimated tax impact for 2017 unreliable, the remedy is simple – have TRSD estimate the tax impact and make it available to Budcom as part of their deliberation. All the information used by the administration in providing the tax impact materials for deliberative is already available in December (for the base budget, not the warrant articles), and affordability should definitely be considered by Budcom. I prepared my estimate, in part, as a demonstration that this is doable and should be expected by our elected representatives.
One final point. Back in February (2016), the materials published by TRSD showed that the district would need about $51.1 million from the property tax base of the four towns. The Cooperative Apportionment shows that the actual amount applied to the property tax base is $49.4 million. That difference of $1.7 million is at the root of the fact that tax increases this past November, although high, were not as high as TRSD initially published. That $1.7 million difference has 2 causes:
- The district underspent appropriations by more than expected. The expected surplus (as shown in the revenue budget at deliberative last year) was $1,650,000. The actual underspend was closer to $3 million.
- The school board at the end August, on motion of Donna Green, voted to transfer $500,000 from a reserve fund to mitigate the tax increase.
I am certain that the district deliberately underspent its budget due to public concerns about the tax impact as raised here, and the same applies to the school board’s willingness to support a motion initiated by Donna Green. If it had not been for these pressures, the tax impact could easily have been as originally forecast by the district.