President Calvin Coolidge once said, “Collecting more taxes than is absolutely necessary is legalized robbery.” That’s how Newton residents should view the three question override vote on Tuesday.
The unanswered questions about tax hikes that could cost the average taxpayer $5,000 to $10,000 over ten years should leave all residents with the conclusion that the taxes are unnecessary.
1) Why are the Newton schools more than twice the cost per student of other elementary schools in the state? The new Angier elementary school will cost $37 million for 465 students, and Cabot elementary school will cost $47 million for 450 students, or a combined cost per student of $91,000. Yet Burlington built their new elementary school for $16 million for 500 students ($33,000 per student) and Hingham built theirs for 611 students for $25 million ($41,000 per student). Hingham's educational spending per student was 32 percent less than Newton's educational spending per student in 2011 yet both cities saw similar MCAS test scores. Do you want to pay more than double the cost for a building if it is not absolutely necessary?
2) Why is the cost of education in Newton increasing at 5 times the rate of enrollment? Newton public school enrollment increased 8 percent from 2003 to 2012, but education spending increased 39 percent during that same time. Why is it absolutely necessary to pay even more in taxes for education, when the city cannot today maintain expense growth proportionate to enrollment growth?
3) Why is Newton not reducing annual salary increases for city employees to lower expenses? The Boston Globe reported that the number of Newton employees taking home annual paychecks above $100,000 climbed by 8 percent in the past four years, and total pay for high earners ballooned by $2.7 million. If salaries rose 1 percent instead of 2.5 percent the City would save $11.9 million in annual spending over three years. Why should taxpayers pay more out of pocket to fund these unnecessarily high salaries?
4) What could the city do if voters reject the Prop 2 ½ override? Live within its means. All of the tax money that was supposed to be spent on roads, buildings, and infrastructure over the recent years has apparently been spent elsewhere, so if the city needs more money, they should look for it “elsewhere.” One place to start—the 80 percent of city expenditures that go to employee salary and benefits. Union contracts currently give City workers better healthcare and pension benefits than private-sector workers. Why should taxpayers pay more to fund salaries and benefits that are not absolutely necessary?
5) Does Newton really have a problem that requires more tax revenue, or does the city need to simply spend less? From when the last override passed in 2002 until 2012, Newton’s general fund revenue increased 43.5 percent, while expenditures rose by 46 percent. If Newton’s spending had grown by only 2.5 percent annually, the City’s spending would be $36.6 million lower than in 2012. Do you want to pay more than is absolutely necessary in taxes to keep feeding the spending problem?
In the absence of answers to the above questions, voters should conclude that the City of Newton wants to collect more taxes than is absolutely necessary, which is a form of legalized robbery. Is that what you want?
West Newton, MA