Override figure finalized at $2.5 million

The tax override set to go before voters at Town Meeting would permanently add $2.5 million to the town’s tax levy, according to Town Administrator Thatcher Kezer.

An override of that amount would have added roughly $330 to the average tax bill in fiscal year 2023, according to the Department of Local Services.

Kezer revealed the final override figure during a Select Board meeting on March 22, when the board voted to approve a statement of intent regarding the override.

An estimated impact of the override for the coming fiscal year, which begins July 1, will not be made public until “sometime between now and Town Meeting,” Kezer told Marblehead Weekly News last Thursday. A final accounting of the override’s impact, Kezer said, would not be available for some time.

“There are other factors that determine the impact on the average household, such as the change in home values, so that any figure at this time would only be an estimate,” he wrote.

Town officials arrived at the $2.5 million figure after finalizing the total amount of expenses for the coming fiscal year and the projected amount of revenue the town was set to bring in, with the override serving as the difference between those two numbers.

The structural deficit is a result of the town’s historic reliance on free cash to balance the budget amid stagnant revenue growth. With free cash figures set to decline, an override became necessary in order for the town to maintain its current level of services.

While board members had initially considered putting forward a pair of overrides — the $2.5 million ask to plug the FY24 budget deficit and an additional override to fund the town’s stabilization fund — they ultimately decided to abandon the second proposal.

According to the statement of intent, the Board did so in an effort to ensure the town “doesn’t overburden the taxpayers this year.”

The override will go before Town Meeting on May 1. Should it win approval there, it will go before voters at the town’s annual election on June 20. The additional funds from the override will go to both town departments and the school department, according to Kezer.

The override would balance the FY24 budget, Select Board Chair Moses Grader said. He said it would also reduce reliance on free cash.

“The fiscal year 24 budget and override proposal will also allow the following commitments: commitment to the completion of a multi-year plan, utilizing upgraded budgeting software, and completing the final phase of adopting [Government Finance Officers Association] best practices,” Grader said.

He added that the FY24 budget and override proposal will also allow the commitment of “accurate and timely” budget “forecasting” for all future fiscal planning.