Friday, May 18, 2007

Worcester Telegram Property taxes spark dissent

This one is a local article about a Republican at-large candidate running for city council, running on opposition to a property tax hike. But, as the article says, this taps into the same thread Deval Patrick tapped in the race for Governor last year, and which Patrick has put forward as a primary reason for reforming school funding - "The property tax is not working".

This Telegram article is not school focused, and does not touch on the state .vs. local tax issue; but I think it raises an important point. The property tax is again elevated in concern as it was prior to Prop 2.5, and the governor has framed this issue as one the governor should work to resolve.

I think this raises a conundrum. Voters want taxes cut across the board - state taxes, local taxes, federal taxes.

The governor's only concrete proposal on the table, local option taxes, are not big enough in scale to make a serious dent in this issue. They could help, but the median telephone pole tax, I calculate, is eight-tenths of one percent of local required minimums for schools. For about 50 towns, the telephone pole tax would be above 2% of school spending. A nice addition to local revenue, but not something I would call a bold and sweeping reform.

For Boston, my estimate is that the combination of telephone tax plus a 1% meal tax could amount to 7% of the local school bill, using the Globe's $20 million figure for a 1% sales tax on meals. That's enough to be worth Tom Menino's serious attention. But that's near the top of the list across the state.

But for a counter example, in Amherst, I think the numbers would come in at about one-fifth of the size of the property tax override that was defeated a couple weeks ago - with the small margin in the vote likely swayed by the governor's message that "the property tax isn't working". Amherst could certainly use the revenue diversification, but the governor's proposal won't solve their budget problems.

Or neighboring Granby, where the $1,305 for telephone pole property taxes compares with their $4 million local funding for schools. Granby is awaiting $442 thousand a year of additional Chapter 70 aid, when target local share is completed.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

If anyone has paid any attention over the years, I have consistently been advocating for Chapter 70 reform. The funding formula has been broken for years, health insurance and fixed costs,i.e. energy, continue to climb into the stratosphere.
Being a former school committee member, a current city councilor, parent and taxpayer, I am looking at this situation from all sides. For the past several years, I have advocated at the State House to change how education is funded. I have paid for postcards and mailings out of my pocket, paid for buses for parents to get to Beacon Hill to tell their stories. I support the Municipal Partnership Act, and know that, while it is not perfect, nor will it take care of the deficit, it is a reasonable opportunity. If there were to be a split of the options, I would hope that it would be state wide.
Locally, I hear parents say that they will pay more in taxes. That is why I filed an item to create a voluntary fund that people could check off a box on their tax bills, and enclose a donation which would be going directly for class size reduction or school supplies. I have helped to raise almost a half million dollars over the years for pools, parks, sports and the arts in public education. I am not just pontificating, I am leading by example. Last year I led a drive to provide back packs and school supplies for close to 700 children whose families found themselves homeless throughout the year. We did not reach the almost 1200 goal, but I hope that this year, we will make it. In fact, I will be coming out with a press release in the next few weeks for people to remember the Set for Success Backpack program, which will start again in mid August. This year, I hope to be able get more corporate support and donations as children whose families may have a home, don't have the funds either.
I hope to find funds to offset the deficit that might be left if the MPA is not fully enacted.
There are politicians who do lead, but don't necessarily do it by headlines. I take my oath of office seriously and know that I am there to help. I would be happy to answer any direct questions.
Kate Toomey
Worcester City Councilor At Large

May 20, 2007  
Blogger MassParent said...

Thanks for your comments. It sounds like you've made your personal impact felt on the scale of a city.

I think the MPA has merit as an option, but I'd like to keep the scope and scale in context in a year with a new governor who may have an opportunity for a major initiative.

Priority 1: major initiative. Priorty 2: major initiative including MPA as a component. Priorty 3: MPA.

May 21, 2007  

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