Frequently Asked Questions About the 2019 Debt Exclusion and Operating Override


How can I find out more about the Arlington High School Building Project?

The Arlington High School Building Committee has documented the project in detail since 2016 and has an extensive FAQ section at ahsbuilding.org. Back to top

What is Proposition 2 ½ ?

Proposition 2 ½ is a state law passed in 1980 that controls how local property taxes may be raised. Under the law known as Prop 2 ½, the town can raise property taxes up to 2 ½ percent annually. Any increase beyond this levy limit must be approved directly by the majority of voters. Back to top

What is a debt exclusion?

A debt exclusion is a temporary increase in taxes to pay for specific capital projects. Debt exclusions allow tax revenue to be temporarily increased to pay the debt service on the projects. A debt exclusion must be approved by a majority of voters. The authorization to increase revenue beyond the levy limit lasts only for the life of the debt. In this case, the debt will last about 30 years. Back to top

What is an operating override?

An operating override raises taxes permanently, increasing the levy limit. Revenue raised this way is used to cover expenses of the municipality. An operating override must be approved by a majority of voters, and the ballot initiative must specify exactly how much additional revenue is being sought. Town Meeting approves budgets annually. Back to top

How will the debt exclusion and operating override affect my taxes?

An accurate estimate of the tax impact will be available once the Select Board votes to place these questions on the ballot, in April. They are awaiting some critical pieces of information before taking this vote.

  • The AHS Building Committee submitted a final project budget of $291 million to the MSBA (Massachusetts School Building Authority) in February. In April the MSBA Board will vote on project approval and MSBA’s financial contribution. This will determine Arlington taxpayers’ contribution.
  • Between now and April, the Select Board is working with town residents, other elected officials, appointed boards, and town employees to determine the duration and size of the override.

Based on the information available now, the ballpark figure for the AHS debt exclusion on the average single-family tax bill is approximately $800 per year. (The average single-family tax bill is currently $8,470.) The estimated tax impact of the operating override depends on the duration of the plan and the level of services. The expected borrowing amount for the high school and the total revenue sought for the operating override will be clearly defined by the Town Manager’s Office in April. Please join the campaign mailing list to receive updates as more details emerge. Back to top

Are options available for residents who can’t afford the tax increases?

Yes. Several state and local programs offer tax relief to qualifying property owners and renters in the form of exemptions or deferrals. Programs are available for senior citizens, people in low-income households, veterans, and others. The state also offers a Senior Circuit Breaker Tax Credit.

In 2017, Arlington’s Town Meeting passed tax work-off programs for income-eligible seniors and residents with disabilities, as well as veterans, or their respective designees. A tax relief fund for seniors was also created, along with a mechanism to receive donations from residents when they pay their tax bills. These programs are administered by the Council on Aging. This spring, Town Meeting will consider adding a municipal Senior Circuit Breaker program and will also consider increasing the income limits for the tax deferral program, a direct result of Home Rule legislation they passed last year.

Residents of Arlington Housing Authority properties will not be affected by the tax increase. Information about tax abatement programs can be found here.
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How can I help?

Let us know you’re voting YES on both questions. This will allow volunteers to spend time reaching other voters instead of knocking on your door. Please also consider volunteering and donating. Arlington needs your help! Back to top

How can I stay informed?

Sign up for our email list or follow us on Facebook. Back to top

Who is involved in this campaign?

Build Arlington’s Future is a volunteer-driven campaign. You can sign up to volunteer. Back to top