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Newton Taxes Are Rising Faster Than Inflation

Our Analysis of How Newton's Property Tax Levy Growth Has Exceeded the US Inflation Rate Even Without Taking Into Account a Potential Tax Override

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:

The Schools

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?

House Values

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?

Police

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.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Walter Jones February 17, 2013 at 05:18 PM
Moving Newton Forward's arguments have moved from fiscal responsibility to actual denial of the schools conditions themselves. Building experts at the MSBA have evaluated the conditions of the schools. Moving Newton Forward is comfortable dismissing actual expert evaluation with NO EVIDENCE to the contrary. Those are not Newton values. No data. Anti-children. Moving Newton Forward is bad for Newton. Joshua Norman is bad for Newton.
Shawn Fitzgibbons, NDCC Co-Chairman February 20, 2013 at 02:21 AM
"Prop two and a half" passed in Massachusetts in the early 1980's. Since that time inflation has almost always exceeded 2.5%. There were a few periods of low inflation, like now, but overall municipalities across the Commonwealth have seen their revenue shrink for nearly two decades.
Neil 10010 February 20, 2013 at 02:36 AM
Great educational points here. @Shawn - can you comment on the rate of salary increases and benefits increases over the same period. Was it also less than 2.5%? Thanks
Shawn Fitzgibbons, NDCC Co-Chairman February 20, 2013 at 02:49 AM
Specifically for the city, I'm not sure. But in general cost of living raises are 2 to 3 percent for many employees in the Boston area, if not more.
Moving Newton Forward February 20, 2013 at 02:58 AM
Neil, did you know that 80% of the City's Budget is due to compensation and benefits? http://www.movingnewtonforward.org/didyouknow/didyouknow.htm#Newton, General Spending

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