Assessment Will Only Slightly Boost Northborough Spending

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State assessments will force Northborough to pay a little more toward Algonquin Regional High School in FY14, according to Town Administrator John Coderre. Photo Credit: Bret Matthew (file photo)

NORTHBOROUGH, Mass. — Northborough will see a slight increase in its projected budget for fiscal year 2014, partly due to higher than expected assessment numbers for Algonquin Regional High School.

This month, the state increased the town's minimum contribution to the school district by about $600,000 to a total of $8,835,114. This is about $800,000 more than what the town paid in FY13.

At the same time, debt service for Algonquin is set to decrease from nearly $1.3 million to about 624,000 in FY14—almost a 50 percent cut. 

All told, the net effect of these changes will increase the town's proposed budget by 1.91 percent, or about $178,030.

"This is nothing that the school committee has done, nothing that the superintendent has done," Town Administrator John Coderre told selectmen Monday night. "There's really not much we can do about this."

The state bases its annual calculation on many factors, including a "wealth factor." Coderre said that the town is seeking more information from the state about exactly why the assessment increased. Last week, Superintendent Charles Gobron said that Northborough's recent economic growth may have played a role.

However, Coderre said it could have been worse if it weren't for the expected drop in Algonquin debt service. "Had this happened one or two years prior, we would have had significant budget issues to be discussing." He added that the town should still be able to meet its goal of keep average tax increases below $200.

Selectmen also credited Gobron and school administrators for taking steps to cut their proposed budget further when the state's numbers came in. Though he originally called for a nearly 5 percent increase, Gobron cut that back by about $177,000 last week. The Regional School Committee will vote on his budget on Wednesday.

Recalling a sometimes "contentious" relationship between the town and the schools in years past, Selectman Jeff Amberson said, "it really has become a true partnership."

"I'm grateful for the working relationship we have now," he added.

Coderre plans to give a presentation on the town's FY14 budget in March. So far, the general government budget is expected to increase by $777,566, or 4.5 percent, to $18,056,813. The Northborough kindergarten through eighth grade school budget is proposed to jump by $877,288, or 4.45 percent, to $20,372,565.

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