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An operating override is a voter-approved measure to increase property taxes beyond the state-imposed levy limit, which is ordinarily capped at 2.5% of the prior year’s limit, plus a dollar amount derived from the value of new construction and other growth in the local tax base since the previous year called “new growth.”
A debt exclusion allows for a temporary property tax increase to finance debt service payments for a specific project or projects. Brookline calculated that it would collect an additional $20,555,634 in property taxes for existing debt exclusions in 2023 (7.9% of the total amount). These are payments for the Ridley School renovation and expansion, the High School renovation and expansion, the Driscoll School renovation and expansion, and the acquisition of Newbury College.
By contrast, an override is a permanent tax increase. Historically, Brookline’s overrides have phased in the increase over a number of years (typically three).
The Town has identified over $11.4M in additional costs, of which approximately $6M are recurring expenditures. The Town plans use approximately $5.3M in one-time funds and $1M in other recurring sources of revenue to lower the total current override proposal to $4,995,000, phased in over three years as follows:
For more information on the Town’s override proposal, please refer to the Town Administrator Override Presentation and the Town Administrator’s FY24 budget message linked below under Supporting Documents.
The Schools’ current override proposal is $6,988,367, phased in over three years as follows:
For more information on the PSB's override proposal, please refer to the School Superintendent Override Presentation linked below under Supporting Documents.
The Select Board included one additional override question to add composting to Town solid waste pickup services for $1.85M, with an estimated additional $400k in revenue anticipated to be secured through a $75 program fee. This question will appear on the ballot as an addition to the base override in a two-tier pyramid that will require passage of the base override in order for composting to be successful.
There will likely be a debt exclusion ballot question that would authorize the Town to finance the possible new Pierce School building. The Town estimates that the total temporary annual cost of servicing that debt will be about $12.6M per year over 25 years. For more information on this debt exclusion and the Pierce School project, please refer to the following page on the PSB’s website: https://www.brookline.k12.ma.us/pierce-project
The Town will publish calculators in the section below for residents to estimate the property tax impact of the override proposal and the Pierce School debt exclusion once the final override numbers have been set by the Select Board.
With expenditures rising at a rate greater than revenues, the Town is faced with the decision to reduce services to balance the budget or raise the Prop 2 ½ limit on property tax growth to maintain services. The Town’s override proposal also prioritizes the need to:
Brookline’s schools also face a critical shortfall of over $3M this fiscal year that is set to grow, even after PSB has identified $1.85M in cuts it intends to make next year. While PSB was able to use one-time federal funds to prevent major cuts earlier in the pandemic, it now faces a need to move the ongoing costs once covered by those funds to the operating budget. PSB also seeks limited funding for public initiatives such as a no-fee bus service in South Brookline and redesigning the World Languages program.
The Assessor’s Office maintains a list of various programs people can use to defray or reduce their overall tax burden.
Additionally, earlier this year, the Legislature passed and the Governor signed a Brookline-specific tax law that can allow a potential exemption of up to 50% of a property tax bill on a qualifying senior citizen’s primary residence. The Assessor’s Office is in the process of drafting regulations to implement this law.
On the one hand, Brookline pays the second-highest average single-family property tax bill ($21,322) in the Commonwealth, behind only Weston. It is important to note, however, that 2 of the 10 most expensive real estate sales in Massachusetts last year were in Brookline, which suggests that large and expensive outlier properties skew our mean tax bill significantly.
On the other hand, when Brookline’s preponderance of condominiums, two- and three-family homes, rental apartments, and multi-use buildings (combining residential and commercial uses) is taken into account, the average tax bill per unit of housing is $8,569. The number of rental apartments, units within owner-occupied buildings having four or more units, and units within multi-use buildings is not easily obtainable for many of our peer communities, but even excluding these types of residential units, Brookline’s average tax bill is presently in well in line with our peer communities: