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What’s the cost of this year’s budget to Greenfield taxpayers?

  • Greenfield budget STAFF IMAGE/ANDY CASTILLO

Staff Writer
Published: 5/20/2019 11:56:46 PM

GREENFIELD — In Mayor William Martin’s initial budget memo he issued a warning on the stability of funding public schools in the future without embarking in regionalization.

“Stressed and beleaguered school districts are visible across the state; even more so, it seems, in Franklin County,” Martin said. “Fortunately, we are still intact financially and educationally. To maintain and advance, we must progress by seeking partnerships with other districts by sharing tasks and reducing redundancies.”

His overall budget came in at $51.3 million, about $2.2 million below the levy limit. Any use of that cushion, Martin said, will “provide only intermittent relief.”

Martin ended up proposing an $18.6 million budget for the schools, about $1.3 million less than what the Greenfield School Committee requested.

The conversation for the past six weeks among city officials has centered around how much should the city invest in the schools this year — as Superintendent Jordana Harper cautions of layoffs to teachers in the arts and music, and as capital projects for a library, fire station and a variety of public works endeavors are likely set to come down the pipeline.

All of this rests on a backdrop of a mayoral race and a ballot vote on the $19.5 million public library in November.

Two of the three candidates are a part of the decision-making process shaping the future mayor’s budget, Precinct 3 Councilor Brickett Allis and Precinct 6 Sheila Gilmour, who hold opposite views on what is the most important part of a budget.

What’s the cost?

The average home in Greenfield was about $187,000 in 2019, according to city tax records.

The owner of the average home would pay $160 more on their tax bill if the current proposed $52 million budget is passed Wednesday. This budget includes an additional $758,000 for the schools, which approaches the $1.3 million gap.

If the council walks back the Greenfield Ways and Means Committee $52 million budget, and instead goes with the mayor’s $51.3 million budget, the average homeowner would have to pay an additional $67 in taxes instead.

The council could also vote down either budget, potentially leading to multiple department cuts, but no immediate rise in taxes.

If the city chooses to fully fund its public schools, meeting the School Committee’s $20 million request, the average homeowner would face an $235 increase in their taxes.

The current tax rate is $22.36 per thousand dollars of property value. The mayor’s proposed tax rate is $22.72.

Martin’s proposed rate decreased after word from the Massachusetts Senate Ways and Means budget, which delivered some relief, including additional money for Chapter 70 education funds.

As usual, the state’s budget won’t be final until the governor signs off on it. First, it has to go through the state House Ways and Means Committee.

Martin believes the reimbursement from the state likely could continue to creep upward as it advances to Gov. Charlie Baker.

Harper could get the money she is seeking from the city if additional Chapter 70 funding from the state comes through and if the School Committee decides to use more money from its revolving funds account to offset the difference between the council’s and its budget.

The budget will be decided Wednesday night at 6 p.m. in the Greenfield High School auditorium.

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