Metro, Politics, Newton

Newton Mayor Proposes $15 Million Tax Increase at Monday Speech

Newton Mayor Ruthanne Fuller proposed a $15 million tax increase at a city hall address on Monday, citing the city’s need for additional funds for improvement projects.

The increase would require a majority vote at a special election to override Massachusetts’ Proposition 2 ½, which places a 2.5 percent cap on annual increases in levy limits.

Newton residents can vote for three ballot items concerning the proposed override at a special election, set tentatively for March 14, 2023.

The city has created a webpage about the override, with a calculator available for residents to assess how the proposed tax raise will impact them should it pass. A property valued at $1.2 million—Newton’s median—would see a tax raise of $290 in the next fiscal year, according to Fuller. The number would grow by another $183 around 2030.

Newtonians have voted to pass two overrides since the enactment of Proposition 2 ½—once in 2002 and again in 2013, according to Fuller.

The funds raised through the proposed tax increase, should the override pass, will be used toward an array of initiatives, according to the website. Such improvements include the renovation of several public schools in Newton, improvements to parks and recreational facilities, and increased efforts to promote sustainability, among others.

Fuller said that since the COVID-19 pandemic, the city has paused almost all of its capital investments, diverting funds instead toward alleviating the pandemic’s impacts.

“Over the past two and a half years, this financial planning has sometimes felt like an ever-changing 3D chess board with the dramatic human and financial impact of the pandemic,” Fuller said in Monday’s address.

While one-time federal funding from the American Rescue Plan Act allowed Newton to address some of its most pressing issues, Fuller said the city needs additional funds to push forward new initiatives.

“The Financial Forecast makes clear the challenge we face,” she said. “Funds from the general operating budget, our debt capacity, the one-time Federal pandemic funding, and other revenue sources cannot absorb all our essential capital and ongoing operating investments in a timely manner and keep us a AAA-rated city.”

City officials will communicate with residents regarding the proposed tax increase in the upcoming months, Fuller said. The next such event will be a virtual town hall on Oct. 20.

October 17, 2022