The city government is at it again with another override attempt. The inflation rate in 2012 was 1.7 percent but yet Newton can’t seem to live with only a 2 1/2 percent increase in the tax base. Many people don’t realize that the city can raise taxes by 2 1/2 percent without voter approval. The pro-override side gives all sorts of reasons why in these tough economic times, the city should raise our taxes at the same time as Gov. Patrick wants a large raise in the state income tax.
We at Moving Newton Forward will address some of their arguments:
In a 2012 article, the Washington Post reported that two Harvard researchers looked at the factors that improve student achievement and those that don’t. In a new paper for the National Bureau of Economic Research, Will Dobbie and Roland Fryer analyzed 35 charter schools, which generally have greater flexibility in terms of school structure and strategy. They found that traditionally emphasized factors such as class size made little difference, compared with some new criteria. They wrote that frequent teacher feedback, the use of data to guide instruction, high-dosage tutoring, increased instructional time, and high expectations explain approximately 50 percent of the variation in school effectiveness.
The proponents say the schools are antiquated. But Ward School is 86 years old and continues to be one of the top elementary schools in the state (4th place). Would a new building make a difference? Take a ride over to Harvard and BC. How many buildings are as old as Angier and Cabot? The answer is many. The reason for the desire for cities and towns to build new or renovate schools is that the state reimburses a high percentage of the building costs to the city or town. Why didn't the city do something about the old schools first before tearing down North?
The pro override side comes out with the old tired argument that house values will fall if we don’t approve an override. Where is there any proof to this statement? The big spenders have used this approach for many years to scare people into approving overrides. Somehow, Newton is still desirable for many new homeowners with our old schools. Many people move to Newton because of low crime and its close proximity to Boston and the major highways. Isn’t it possible that our high real estate taxes could scare off buyers from choosing to live in Newton?
Why do we need more police? Newton is one of the safest cities in the country with a population over 75,000. Do we need more police to give out more parking and speeding tickets? Most of the crimes are car and house break-ins. What will adding more police do to prevent this type of crime? The proponents say we need more police presence because of increasing accidents, some involving bicycles. What would these extra police personnel do to prevent such occurrences? Stand on every corner? Generally, police come on the scene after a crime has been committed or an accident has happened. More police will not change that.
One other thing, Social Security payments for many of us are taxable. Why? We paid into this system all our working lives and now the government has to tax again the money that we paid in to the system. Tax freedom day in our state is April 22, which is the first day of the year in which we residents of Massachusetts have earned enough income to fund our annual tax burden. The government taxes us when we earn the money, they tax us if we invest that money, tax our social security payments, and finally tax some of us when we die. Many of the elderly live on fixed incomes in our city. Such an increase in taxes could drive many citizens out of Newton.
All I can say is enough is enough. I urge a no vote on all 3 questions on March 12. We are lucky that in this state that we now have the right to say no to big tax increases. We owe a debt of gratitude to those activists who were able to get Prop 2 1/2 passed.