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Keeping score on overrides

Posted by Marcia Dick  May 21, 2008 01:43 PM

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Newton's rejection Tuesday of a $12-million property tax override is the latest of more than a dozen votes this spring on proposed property tax increases. Towns and cities are complaining of fast rising costs, but their record of persuading voters to increase taxes is decidedly mixed. Here is a quick rundown of the highlights:


COMPLETED
Newton - rejected $12-million override for schools and city services
Georgetown - Passed $91,000 override for fire department; five debt exclusions failed.
Groveland - $172,340 override for continuation of a road improvements project failed.
Hamilton - Passed two overrides: $1,288,322 for schools; $177,444 for town operating budget.
Ipswich - Passed $1,491,000 override for schools.
Rockport - Passed $2,735,000 debt exclusion for various expenditures.
Rowley - Passed $450,000 debt exclusion for pumper truck.
Wenham - Passed $601,267 override for schools; $153,000 debt exclusion for town equipment.
Brookline - Passed $6.2-million for schools and services
Canton - Passed $4.5-million override
Natick - Passed $3.9-million override for schools, library and police
Randolph -- Passed $5.5-million for schools and services
Shrewsbury - Rejected $1.5-million override
Holbrook - Rejected $2.8-million override
Chelmsford - Rejected $2.8-million override
Sudbury - Rejected $2.8-million override
Wayland - Passed $1.9-million override
Harvard - Rejected $786,000 override

PENDING
Beverly - June 3 special election - $2,500,000 override for schools
Winthrop - June 10 special election - $1,550,453 override; $996,361 for schools; rest for other town needs.
Marblehead - Town Meeting passed debt exclusions of $21.8 million and $395,000 for school projects; must be approved at special election June 17.
Swampscott - Town Meeting passed capital exclusions of $300,000 for a fire truck and $150,000 for road improvements; must be approved at a special election, date to be announced.
Franklin - Considering a $2.8-million override June 10



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13 comments so far...
  1. The spokesman for Newton's Mayor Cohen said of the override failure:

    "The voters have spoken, and we are facing a very difficult Fiscal Year 2009 as a result"

    The Mayor's office is incorrect on this point. Newton is facing a very difficult year with or without the override. It would have also been a very difficult fiscal year for Newton residents if the override passed, with substantially higher property taxes.

    I'm all for good schools and good services. However, Newton residents demand smart fiscal management by city hall. This year has been difficult in terms of the high price of energy and price inflation. It was made even more difficult than need be due to City Hall's poor fiscal management. Newton residents would be much more apt to support the mayor's agenda if they believed that the city was fiscally well managed.

    Posted by Simon Twomish May 21, 08 06:36 PM
  1. Being new to Massachusetts (and not a resident of Newton) the Newton result seems rather typical in that the folks who live in the more affluent towns tend to not be as thoughtful about society as a whole and tend to focus on themselves. The fact that Massachusetts has the lowest charitable giving rate per capita in the nation is one indication of this endemic fact. Another local example, is when the former mayor of Newton attempted to pay out of his own pocket for his daughter's school to have an extra 4th grade teacher so that would reduce class sizes. This latter issue is quite unbelievable and emblematic of Newton as a whole in this case.

    Posted by mike May 21, 08 08:25 PM
  1. Hand-wringing "YES" people and chest-thumping "NO" people need not apply -- but for everyone else, let's take advantage of this moment to seize upon three major areas where Newton can cut costs and not decrease services:

    1. Cut future pensions to 80% of the median income in Newton (80% of $86052 = $68842) adjusted biannually. We should stop paying pensions for a lifetime that exceed the median annual income of a Newton taxpayer. This would include the next round of union contracts.
    2. Have a two-tiered property tax as some other places do, with a 10% surcharge for people having school age children (if you can afford to send 'em to private school, you can pay the surcharge, too).
    3. Pay no city employee a salary greater than the median household income (currently $86052.) That includes school super, mayor, school principals, etc., and elminate truly non-essential positions, like Spokesman.

    Posted by Katy May 21, 08 09:43 PM
  1. Hand-wringing "YES" people and chest-thumping "NO" people need not apply -- but for everyone else, let's take advantage of this moment to seize upon three major areas where Newton can cut costs and not decrease services:

    1. Cut future pensions to 80% of the median income in Newton (80% of $86052 = $68842) adjusted biannually. We should stop paying pensions for a lifetime that exceed the median annual income of a Newton taxpayer. This would include the next round of union contracts.
    2. Have a two-tiered property tax as some other places do, with a 10% surcharge for people having school age children (if you can afford to send 'em to private school, you can pay the surcharge, too).
    3. Pay no city employee a salary greater than the median household income (currently $86052.) That includes school super, mayor, school principals, etc., and elminate truly non-essential positions, like Spokesman.

    Posted by Katy May 21, 08 09:51 PM
  1. The financial disaster in Newton is just one example of how far too many individuals in the public sector are out of touch with fiscal reality! The "Taj Mahal" high school is just one example of this assertion. Massachusetts as a whole should adopt the policy of prototype school buildings where a community wishing to construct a new elementary of high school would be provided with a choice of architectual designs 4 or 5 in number. Upon choosing the one most acceptable to them the State of Massachusetts would kick in their share towards its' construction. If the city or town officials want something more i.e. an olympic size pool then they would have to secure the funds for those "whistles & bells"!
    Pension reform is long overdue in this state especially when so many of the working citizens in the private sector have seen their pensions eliminated or reduced. Finally to all of the fine citizens of Newton who are now wringing their hands and predicting doom and gloom for Newton, I have one question to ask. How many of you elected to pay the optional higher state income tax on your state income tax forms this year? If you want to continue to spend tax payer dllars recklessly then you should at least be willing first of all to reach into your own pockets first for that revenue.

    Posted by Martin Costello May 22, 08 12:02 AM
  1. as a life time newton resident i am amazed that no matter what newton residents do in regards to taxes they are castigated by those who do not live here : if we raise taxes so we can pay for excellence in city infrastructure and services we are elitists , if we refuse to raise taxes to encourage fiscal discipline, we are elitists ( see mike's rant ) - not raising taxes does not imply selfishness any more than raising taxes does rather the desire to pay or not pay taxes arises from our view of whether the city uses its revenue for what is for the essential benefit of the whole community - Newton residents voted to not raise taxes because we believe ( collectively - though not myself personally ) that the extra funds collected would not be used to benefit the whole , but only a few -

    Posted by paul May 22, 08 12:16 AM
  1. I think that all towns should have a 2 tiered Tax system. People without kids are moving out of towns with high taxes as they cannot afford them on a fixed income.
    Perhaps a means test could be used. Those with a lower than median income do not pay for the schools, etc. Florida has ares of town that are exempt from the property school tax and it seems to work well. It couldn't be done by area around here but it could by usage. If you use it you pay for it. I have children in school and although I do not want to pay more in taxes and can hardly afford it, I am using the resources for which the overrides are needed.

    Posted by bette May 22, 08 01:53 PM
  1. I don't live in Newton so I'm guessing. Perhaps some voters felt that the expensive high school is causing some of the city's budget problems. If the high school project had been voted as an override (debt exclusion), then its debt service would be already exempt from Prop 2 1/2.

    Posted by jim May 22, 08 02:56 PM
  1. Why not take some of Deval's Executive Office Budget and use it for the towns. Talks about waste

    Posted by zzz May 23, 08 08:48 AM
  1. I agree with Simon Twomish. I voted for the over-ride, and I have voted for this Mayor for 30 years, starting when he was a state rep. However, the mishandling of the high school (starting with Graham Gund, but also hiring a contractor, who exceeded the estimate for Newton South) has convinced me that for all of his decency and good values, the Mayor is not a competent manager. In the next election, I will be looking for a liberal candidate, who did not rubber stamp everything the Mayor requested. If that requires a new face, so be it.

    I do not, by the way, agree with the people who look back to the good old days of Mayor Mann. I love the library, but balancing the budget by selling off schools, just deferred the bill to today.

    Posted by Harvey May 23, 08 10:56 AM
  1. Let's get to the point:
    Overrides should be used only as a last resort.
    If the town needs an override it is because it is not handling its money properly.
    Towns need to cut NO deals with the Unions.
    Ride the Bus - pay the town - no one rides free.
    Stop stipends for afterschool activities given to teachers.
    Menu Override Option - NOT all or nothing Overrides.
    Then...let's get more Republicans elected for balance in town and State Government! Diversity of opinion is the most important type of Diversity!
    Get Deval out of office and Vote for McCain - that's a start!

    Posted by GOP May 25, 08 06:39 PM
  1. A victory for tax payers was decided on May 20th with a "No" vote for the $12 million tax over-ride in Newton. My concern now is how the city will become more fiscally responsible? I have seen repeated examples of excessive waste in the city, and allowing for City Buildings to be built out of code, inaccessible to people with disabilities, and allowed to deteriorate. This is all paid for by our tax dollars, but it is being mismanaged. The ISD told me they were not responsible for making sure the library branches, curbcuts, or other structures met code. Then who is responsible? When a complaint is filed to the state Architctural Access Board (AAB) for building code violations, who ends up paying? The City is forced to fix the problems, but it is not given to the contractor to assume. It is given to us, Newton Taxpayers. Kate McGinnis and other analysts have reviewed all the city buildings, reportedly, over the last two decades. How come their reports are not being reviewed? It is time for Alderman and others to speak up and demand for the department heads to show how the money is really being spent, so we can keep out community libraries, keep our schools fit, and pay what is most important in this otherwise, magnificient city.

    Posted by M.A. May 26, 08 10:00 PM
  1. i would like to "Thank" any person who had anything to do with the Passing of "Prop 2 1/2 " it is the only "Control" that "we" the people have over MORE TAXES BEING PUSHED DOWN OUR THROATS !! at least we have to "Vote" to Slice "our" throats "deeper" !!!
    UNLIKE the following that "REGARDLESS" of "our" Voices and Vote (rescinding)
    the sales tax back to 5%) REMEMBER ?? WE GET PUSHED DOWN OUR THROATS !!! READY ? GAS, SALES, INCOME, FOOD, HOTEL, R,M,V FEES (robbery), PARKING TICKETS (your taxes pays for the streets) LICENSE FEES
    (private sector) from fishing licenses to "COURT FEES" i think "YOU" get the Point!

    POINT

    Posted by Ray / Winthrop March 19, 09 07:45 PM
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About override central Coverage of Prop 21/2 override campaigns in more than 30 communities in Greater Boston.
Christine Wallgren is a correspondent in the Globe South bureau.
David Dahl is the Globe's regional editor.
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