nothing is certain in life but death and taxes, and the one thing almost everyone thinks taxes should be used for is saving us from early deaths. Police and fire departments are almost entirely funded by local governments, but there are significant differences from town to town in how much they take out of the budget. As the map below indicates, the percentage devoted to public safety (fire, police, and “other public safety,” as reported to the state Department of Revenue) in fiscal 2006 was highest in major cities from Fall River to Holyoke, but also in certain tourist areas such as Cape Cod and the North Shore town of Salisbury.
At the other end of the spectrum, high property values and below-average spending on police and fire departments in Holliston allowed that town to devote almost 60 percent of all general fund expenditures toward education. Several other western suburbs, including Acton, Hopkinton, and Stow, fit this pattern. However, any savings from the small budget devoted to the police and fire departments in Washington seem to have been eaten up by public works costs, as was the case in much of Berkshire and Franklin counties—perhaps because of heavy snowfall in the western part of the state.