Brookline voters are being asked to approve a 4.2% increase to their property taxes to fund growing operating expenses, which includes a $6.99 million allocation to the town’s school system and $1.8 million to fund a municipal compost collection service. Massachusetts state law caps property tax increases at 2.5% of the prior year’s collection, but allows communities to raise taxes above that limit if voters approve. Brookline voters last approved an operating override in 2018.
The proposed operating override has high stakes for Brookline’s schools. If approved, the tax increase will raise $11.98 million, phased in gradually over three years. Failure to pass the override will result in an unprecedented $3.25 million budget reduction in fiscal year 2024 for the schools, potentially leading to the loss of 43 positions across various programs. Performing arts and world languages will be among the hardest hit, and class sizes will increase. The budget reductions will get deeper in subsequent years, with cuts rising to $6.3 million by fiscal year 2026.
“This is a complete gutting of our public schools. This takes our entire public school system down to the bare bones,” said School Committee member Nancy Rhei Gorer.
The remaining $4.99 million in override funds will be used to close existing deficits and pay for roadway maintenance, vehicle replacement, facilities maintenance, employee recruitment and retention, rodent control, and other initiatives.
The proposed tax increases are substantial, and some voters believe they result from an out-of-control budget. However, there is no organized campaign opposing the override. The owners of a single-family home assessed at the median value of $2,013,950 would see their property taxes increase by $723.96 if voters approve the override. Owners of a condominium assessed at the median value of $772,450 would see a $196.56 increase in property taxes.
In addition to the operating override, there is a second override question, 2B, which includes the same base tax increase as question 2A but would also add $1.8 million to fund a municipal compost collection service. The compost program would add $112.05 to the annual property tax bill for the median-value single-family home.
If both questions are approved, the operating override plus the compost collection service would lead to a total levy increase of $13,833,367. The town has published a calculator where residents can plug in their addresses and find the impact on their property taxes from both the operating override and the Pierce School debt exclusion question.
The election will have a profound impact on Brookline’s future, and voters must weigh the benefits of funding the schools and other municipal departments against the costs of the tax increase.