Opinion: Town Meeting will bring hard choices, FinCom chair says

April 14, 2024

By Parashar Patel — Chair, Concord Finance Committee 

As we approach Annual Town Meeting, I urge all residents to read the Finance Committee’s annual report. I share the following observations after five years as a member of the committee.  

Concordians should be concerned about the town’s current financial position. Our continued reliance on property taxes places the burden of higher costs on residents and property owners. For the five-year period Fiscal Years 2018-2023, total spending has increased by 3% annually while non-property tax revenue increased only 2.4%, with the burden falling on Concord residents because 93% of our tax base is residential properties.  

Unless Concordians and our elected leaders make substantial changes, this trend will continue.  

Total expenses are expected to increase 4.2% annually from FY2024-2029, while non-property tax revenues are projected to increase 2.9%. The difference must be made up by property tax increases.  

These projected increases do not include the impact of major projects that may be undertaken soon, some of which may create opportunities to broaden our tax base and increase future revenues, but all likely require investments.  

The Town Manager and Select Board must develop and execute a strategic planning process to prioritize competing demands for town resources, including those from various boards and committees. The Superintendent and School Committee must develop strategies to moderate spending growth (spending for schools accounts for about two-thirds of all town spending) while improving outcomes for students. The Select Board and School Committee should create an integrated capital plan to enable long-term planning and manage capital expenses.  

Most importantly, we must make difficult choices. What are our expectations for student outcomes relative to our spending on schools? Should Concord be an affordable place to live for individuals and families of moderate income? What are our expectations for good roads and quickly clearing snow after major storms? Would we be comfortable with the property tax burden increasing by 4-6% or more per year for the next five+ years for residential properties?  

How we, our town and school leaders, and elected officials answer these and other questions will determine the shape, character, and values of our town.  

I urge every resident to make your voice heard through participation at various committee and board meetings and, most importantly, by voting in town elections and actively participating in annual Town Meetings.  

Only by doing so can we make a difference and help ensure that Concord continues to be a town we can proudly call home.