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LETTER: Vote 'No' on Three Tax Increases, Enough is Enough

A letter to the editor from resident and Moving Newton Forward Co-Chair Joshua Norman

 

Newton taxpayers paid for schools already but the money was spent elsewhere.

Our Group Moving Newton Forward with Fiscal Responsibility is a grassroots group dedicated to ensuring fiscal sanity and responsibility in the city of Newton.  We believe that a property tax increase via a Proposition 2½ ballot override rewards fiscal mismanagement, incompetence and lassitude and it is a pathetic excuse for poor management.  Mayor Warren’s cheering section has regurgitated the myth that he has “saved ~$200M” in his first term.  If that is the case, then why has general fund spending increased from $287.5 million in 2010 (when he took office) to $313 million in 2013 (when he has asked for three extravagantly expensive property tax overrides and is projected to reach $386 million in 2018?  These “savings” are smoke and mirrors.  We acknowledge that Warren reduced the rate of spending growth, but reducing the rate of spending growth does not represent any “savings”, should not be treated as “savings” but rather as “reductions in spending growth”.  They certainly don’t justify $11.4 million/year in new taxes especially since he only reduced spending growth to around the level of revenue growth.

The mayor and his cheering section are asking for $11.4 million in new property taxes in order to address infrastructure needs.  We are opposed to more taxes for infrastructure spending.  Newton residents have already paid taxes for schools, buildings, streets, sidewalks and other infrastructure but the money was spent elsewhere?  And here is what we mean by elsewhere:

  • 80 percent of Newton’s annual budget goes to fund lavish salaries and benefit packages for public sector unions.
  • 84.2 percent of Newton’s annual school budget goes to fund lavish salaries and benefit packages for the teachers unions and other 
  • $13.4 million/year in increased annual debt service payments thanks to the Newton North debacle ($8.2 million in 2004 to $21.6 million in 2012)
  • $7.5 million in uncompensated educational benefits to other cities and towns in Massachusetts for educating their children in our school system.

We have been urging Newton voters to vote no on all three are urging a no vote on all these questions. The message the tax hikers have been spreading is “Three questions, one city!”  We see it differently as one may guess. In our view, we see it as “Three tax hikes, one paycheck, one answer” as we urge Newton voters to vote NO on all three tax increases.  However, we have decided to use part of this report to explain why specifically we urge a NO vote on Questions 2 (Angier Debt Exclusion Override) and Question 3 (Cabot Debt Exclusion Override).We have no issue with the city replacing Cabot or Angier but we oppose overriding Prop 2½ to increase taxes to pay for new spending for these initiatives.

  • The money must come elsewhere to fund these programs (either from compensation concessions, increased reimbursements for non-resident students, naming rights, eliminating CPA or replacing CPA with a $2.44 million/year debt/capital exclusion)
  • Burlington did not have a property tax increase via a Prop 2½ override but it still pulled in $14 million in state aid for its new elementary school
  • Burlington’s new elementary school cost $29 million gross cost, versus the $35 million minimum projected gross cost for Angier, the $40 million minimum projected gross cost for Zervas and the $45 million minimum projected gross cost for Cabot
  • Burlington’s new elementary school cost $15 million net of state aid, versus the $23 million minimum projected net cost for Angier and the $35 million minimum projected net cost for Cabot (Zervas’ net cost equals its gross cost since there’s no state aid for it).
  • If the employees of the Newton Public Schools were willing to see their total compensation reduced by 2 percent immediately (or a 2.6 percent reduction in cash compensation and 0 percent reduction in benefits), it would free up funds to underwrite the Cabot and Angier projects as currently projected
  • The debt override ballot questions have no specific amounts or specifics relating to the projects
  • The city has admitted that the estimated costs of the projects could rise (lack of a price guarantee)
  • Angier’s feasibility study is not expected to be complete until June
  • The Cabot and Zervas school projects are still early in the planning stages

In conclusion, we urge Newton residents to vote no on these three property tax increases. Newton taxpayers have paid plenty of taxes to the city of Newton in the expectation that city property would be properly maintained but the city has spent the money elsewhere. We believe that voting NO on these three extravagantly expensive property tax increases will remind the mayor that he said he has more work to do and that we expect him to keep his word. We believe that it is time to take the money that we spend on elsewhere and use the money from elsewhere to remedy our infrastructure needs.  That is what we call Moving Newton Forward with Fiscal Responsibility. Vote NO on these three property tax increases because we pay enough in taxes and quite frankly, ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!

--Joshua Norman

Editor's note: For more stories, letters and blogs on the Newton override, check out our Newton override page.

NEIL RONCHINSKY March 09, 2013 at 08:11 PM
What an incredibly well written letter. What Setti warren is asking for in tax hikes is just about the same amount we have to pay per year on that ridiculous Taj Mahigh School. We were promised no override would be necessary to build that school, and fill Mayor cohens ego. Obviously, we were lied to(big surprise). 99.9% of communities in this world would be in heaven if they had a budget like Newtons. But with our greedy politicians and unions, whatever we give them is never enough. We must vote NO NO NO and restore some amount of fiscal sanity to city hall. I keep reminding everybody, the last school constructed before Newton North was Newton North. This is poor leadership. The only way to stop these people from wasting our money is to stop giving them more and more. 2 1/2% in automatic yearly property tax increase should be plenty. More than they deserve, frankly.
Suzanne Rourke March 11, 2013 at 02:55 PM
Joshua finds the truth in the budgets of Newton and other towns and cities. Lucky for us, he shows the many ways Newton can meet its obligations without further punishing the public school student or taxpayer.

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