• A failure to raise taxes has sent one Mass. town into fiscal chaos

    By: Jim Morelli


    MILLVILLE, Mass. - A failed proposal for tax hikes last month has sent the town of Millville, Massachusetts into a fiscal tailspin.

    Thursday afternoon was one of only two afternoons per week the library is now open.

    It is one of several dramatic changes that went into effect in July. And more cuts are coming. Because the town’s budget is still $300,000 in the red. 

    Town officials have until the end of the year to balance the out-of-whack budget. 

    It may be called the Millville Free Public Library, but everyone in town is quickly learning no municipal service is free. 

    The difficulty at the library is the same as everywhere in the Blackstone Valley town. 

    After a proposition two-and-a-half override – a proposal to increase property taxes -- failed to pass last month, the town made drastic cuts in funding to avoid a $700,000 budget deficit.  

    “We've made approximately $400,000 in cuts,” Town Selectman Joseph Rapoza said. 

    Library salaries are gone, municipal garbage collection has been dumped and two-thirds of the street lights in town have simply been shut off. 

    The town's senior center has even been closed.

    “We got 700 seniors in town,” 30-year resident Gerry Finn noted. “Where are they going to go?”

    Millville's tumble into fiscal turbulence has been a long time coming.

    For years, its cash reserves have been dwindling as expenses have gone up and revenues kept slipping behind.

    “Many of the people have said, ‘well geez, why don't we bring in more businesses?’ Well, we have no town water and no town sewer,” Finn said. 

    What Millville does have is a dependence on property taxes for revenue. And a much lower property tax rate than, for example, its neighbor Blackstone.

    Therein lies the root of the current crisis. 

    “There are people who just don't understand that there are certain fixed costs that the town is obligated to pay,” said Finn. “And those costs are now in excess of what the town can bring in through its regular taxation.”

    MORE: Mass. senate approves firefighters cancer bill

    Next Up: