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State of the City: Newton Mayor Stresses 'Critical Decision' in Override Vote

Mayor Setti Warren gave the annual State of the City address Monday night at Newton City Hall.

With just over a month to go before Newton voters decide on an $11.4 million override package, Mayor Setti Warren underlined in his State of the City address Monday night the "critical" choice residents face in deciding whether to support the proposed tax levy measure.

"This is the most important State of the City [address] that I've given since becoming mayor," Warren said in an interview with Newton Patch Monday afternoon. "We have a critical choice in front of us as a community." 

Residents will head to the polls on March 12 to vote on three override questions that aim to improve infrastructure, boost public safety and help crowded classrooms.

The override package will . 

In his address Monday night at Newton City Hall, Warren touted the work his administration has done since he took office in 2010, including the city's 311 reporting system, a capital assessment plan and a zero-based budgeting approach that the administration says has saved the city $15 million.

Warren also highlighted the city's support of economic growth, including new businesses at The Street and Chestnut Hill Square developments on Route 9 as well as the potential mixed-use site at Riverside Station. 

The city has also worked to reduce municipal energy consumption, efforts that have resulted in a $2.1 million drop in energy costs, according to Warren.

"We have made tremendous progress together since 2010. This progress occurred because of our laser-like focus on getting our fiscal house in order over the past 3 years and working tirelessly to measure and improve our city’s performance. And we’ve made progress because we have shifted our efforts to actively promote economic development," Warren said in his address Monday night.

In 2013, and as the city works on its fiscal 2014 budget, Chief Financial Officer Maureen Lemieux told Newton Patch Monday that the administration will continue the financial strategies it has used over the last three years, including monitoring health insurance costs as well as potential efficiencies in all city departments.

To read Warren's full address, check out the .pdf above.

Despite the work done over the last three years, Warren told Newton Patch that the community must "take the next step" in choosing to move forward with the override package and funding that will "contribute to ensuring Newton has a quality of life that we all expect." 

"Our decision on March 12 will determine what kind of city we want to be," Warren said in his interview Monday afternoon.

Late last month, a group known as Moving Newton Forward officially announced its campaign against the proposed override, arguing that Newton officials should "live within their means" rather than imposing more taxes on residents. 

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If all three overrides pass, the average Newton tax bill will increase by approximately 50 cents for every $1,000 valuation of a home, according to city officials. This amounts to an average of $343 per year, based on Newton's median home price of $686,000.

If the override does not pass, Warren said he and his administration will continue their strategies and the work they've been doing since 2010. However, he said residents should know that without the override, the building projects slated to receive funding will not be addressed, roads will remain in disrepair and class sizes will continue to increase.

"There are some in our community that say this package doesn’t do enough, and we should have added more. There are some that say this is not the right time. But here’s what we do know -- if we decide to do nothing at this time, we stand to lose the community that we know and love. The community that prides itself in quality education, solid property values and safe neighborhoods now and in the future," Warren said in his address Monday night.

Nevertheless, Warren told Newton Patch he believes Newton residents "will make the right choice" on March 12 and support the override.

Warren reiterated that confidence in his address Monday night.

"I can unequivocally state that our city does remain strong and that I am confident we have the chance to continue to lead our state and nation in education, innovation, opportunity and quality of life if we join together and invest in building Newton’s future," Warren said. 

As for the rest of 2013, Warren said the city's next focus will be putting together the fiscal 2014 budget, a document that will show "the pathway forward" and the next steps for the city.

What did you think of the mayor's State of the City address? Share your thoughts in the comments section below. 

Adam Maleson February 05, 2013 at 06:17 AM
"What did you think of the mayor's State of the City address? Share your thoughts in the comments section below." Melanie, why do you keep insisting that I leave my comments on these political hypocrites, when I'm certain you don't actually appreciate my sentiments at all? Oh well, I am a compliant person, and will do as you requested: If Setti Warren were a TRUE leader, he would solve these financial needs by tightening HIS belt, before expecting the already overtaxed residents to accept an even greater financial burden. Slash in half the highest paid city employees, including the mayor, all the way down the list until you reach a total payroll of $24 million among them. That 50% pay-cut of the highest paid employees, whose inflated salaries are ALREADY coming out of the Newton taxpayers pockets, would provide the $12 million Warren says the city needs. ONLY property-owning Newton residents should be allowed to vote for this override, because only they are going to have to pay the increased taxes that will result from it. It's also un-neighborly of those residents who would vote for an override thus forcing their neighbors who do not choose to have their exorbitant taxes increased still more to have to pay more taxes anyhow. If you choose to pay more taxes, go right ahead and do so . . . but DON'T force other residents to do so just to keep you company. That's just plain rude, and makes you a Bad Neighbor.
Janet Sterman February 05, 2013 at 08:45 PM
Only 50c per $1000 valuation of your home... Wow, that's peanuts! So according to the financial wizards at Newton City Hall, thats a median override cost to earch taxpayer of $343/year! Well, what if you invested this mere $343 in a high-quality diversified portfolio of stocks and bonds at an expected 12% annual rate of return you would have over $82,000 in 30 years. That's WITHOUT Compounding (adding the earned interest back into the original annual investment!.Food for thought, right?

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