GROTON -- Squeezed by plans to raise $1.4 million to help the Groton-Dunstable Regional School District balance its books for fiscal 2015, selectmen have decided to reconsider adoption of a meals tax.
The notion was raised Monday night by town manager Mark Haddad at the behest of board member Joshua Degen, who felt that every potential source of revenue should at least be reviewed.
The proposal was made at least partially in response to a tightened budget situation which, if approved by residents, would leave the town with little maneuvering room when it comes to its own future spending requirements.
"It's going to be a tight budget this year," noted Haddad.
In a scheme to raise the needed funds for the schools, Haddad has proposed removing the payment method for the new Center Fire Station from within the town's levy limit and pay for it through a debt exclusion.
The move frees up more tax revenue from the levy limit, the most that the town can collect in taxes based on the total valuation of property in Groton, and places payment of the fire station outside the straitjacket of the state's Proposition 2 1/2 law.
But in using almost all of the money thus made available in the levy limit, little would be left for emergencies save what could be added in new growth in coming years.
As a result, town officials have felt the squeeze with selectmen now finding themselves willing to reconsider a proposal that they turned down once before.
At the time, board members decided not to join many other Massachusetts communities in levying a meals tax on local restaurants and take-outs because the estimated $55,000 that could be collected did not seem worth it.
But in bringing the issue up again, Haddad noted that since 2010 when the tax was last considered, earnings from it would have increased to $90,000 in 2011 and to $100,000 in 2013.
Currently, if the meals tax were collected in Groton for a full year, $115,000 could be collected.
Refusing to dismiss the proposal out of hand, selectmen nevertheless balked at introducing the meals-tax issue at spring town meeting, only weeks away.
Preferring to allow time for public discussion on the proposal, the board left open a future meeting for further discussion with the possibility of including it as an article on the warrant for the fall town meeting.