When Newton voters step into voting booths nine days from now, they'll use a pen, a ballot, and an assortment of personal circumstances and beliefs to cast either a "Yes" or "No" vote on the city's request for a $12 million property-tax increase.
The call to override Proposition 2 1/2's limits on taxes comes at an uncertain time. The economy is slowing, threatening home prices in a state known for its costly real estate. Voters in six area communities have rejected property-tax increases this spring, while residents in six others have approved similar requests.
In Newton, public anger is high over the $197.5 million Newton North High project, even though officials have said the tax increase won't go toward the new school.
Without the additional tax revenues, Mayor David Cohen and other Newton officials warn of cutbacks in a city that prides itself on good schools and low crime. But the increase would add hundreds of dollars to property-tax bills that average more than $7,000 a year.
Front yards are dotted with yard signs. Neighbors are debating neighbors. Political committees have been created on both sides. Here are a few voter voices.
Estelle Dezotell, 75, West Newton
Override tax impact: $297 Override vote: No
A former longtime employee of the citys school district, Dezotell was laid off in 2003, a year after Newtons last override. As a senior on a fixed income, she said the approximately $300 extra she would pay in taxes because of the override would require her to cut something out of her monthly budget, such as cable television. Eventually she will have to consider moving out of Newton, Dezotell said.
I dont have the faith in the decision-making. The city was looking for $24 million and they settled for $12 [million], so you know next year theyll be in the same boat again.
Peter Kates, 56, Newton Centre
Override tax impact: $634 Override vote: Yes
A product of the citys schools who has had two sons go through the system, Yates, a printing business owner, said he believes a Newton education will still be a bargain even though the override would increase the taxes on his $1.1 million Tudor-style home by approximately $634 per year.
I dont believe that the city and Mayor Cohen have handled the fiscal situation properly, but we are committed to loving our children and giving them the best education we can.
Alan Cutter, 53, Newton Centre
Override tax impact: $322 Override vote: Yes
With three children that have or are attending city schools, Cutter, a real estate appraiser, said his 13-year old daughter, Amanda, will not get the services she needs as a dyslexic student if the override does not pass.
My goal in life is to provide for my children. Its expensive to live here, but its worth the sacrifices weve made to live in a quality environment, from the schools to public safety to the library.
Margo Cantor, 62, Newton Highlands
Override tax impact: $393 Override vote: No
A lab technician at MIT whose 68-year-old husband continues to work despite numerous health issues, Cantor said the couple can afford to continue to live in their home only if they both keep working. Cantor, who pays about $8,200 a year in property taxes, said she disagrees with the way the citys finances are being managed, fearing that the override would primarily add new city jobs and force another tax increase next year.
Im opposed to the mayors use of scare tactics and upset with how Newton North and its funding are being managed. Newton is a diverse community with people of all ages, and I really do not like the younger people pitted against the older people.