A Hard Pill To Swallow
I understand very well the hesitation to give the town more money in the wake of the financial mismanagement of the past decade.
Marblehead has one of the lowest real estate tax rates in Essex County, yet we enjoy full town services despite this fact. By using free cash to keep the tax rate low, we have avoided a general override. Unfortunately, the well is dry and our town departments are already understaffed and struggling with aging technology and equipment that often breaks down.
Level-funded budgets do not work long term and although we have had major missteps like the Transfer Station and loss of bank interest, I believe the new Town Administrator, Finance Director and Treasurer are already moving in the right direction. Thanks to Rachel Blaisdell (treasurer) we are starting to use best practices for our banking needs. Thatcher Kezer (TA) and Aleesha Benjamin (FD) have implemented financial software that will bridge our old system to help with the tracking of our tax dollars. While this will not fix everything, it is a good start.
There are many reasons to be upset about this override. People that do not have children, send children to private schools, or you just don’t see the need for all the school programs. The majority of the cost of educating a child falls to the school district. The idea of leaving no child behind is wonderful and necessary, but it is also expensive. Our teachers and staff are paid much less than most other districts in Essex County so taking away a cost-of-living raise would send them running to other districts. Most cannot afford to live in town anyway and are commuting so why not go where the money is? COLA raises and benefits are necessary to keep a well trained workforce in place that are vested in the town's prosperity.
Anyone who knows me will tell you that I like to “bottom line” things, so here you go… If our schools fail, so will your property values. If we have short staffed public safety, elevated trash fees and understaffed infrastructure departments your property value will also suffer. This general override is necessary just to account for 15 years of the cost of living and is way overdue. Before you vote “NO” on question #1, please look at other municipal tax rates in comparable communities with similar population, median income and proximity to the ocean. Then decide if it is worth an extra $5 to $10 a week to live here.
We all have a choice and power with our vote. We should be voting for transparency, flexibility and ideas. It is obvious that the old days' back door deals shrouded in secrecy are what has brought us here.
I am voting “YES” on question #1 and casting my votes for candidates that believe in considering ALL points of view, value their constituents and are not afraid to make necessary adjustments to “the way it has always been done”. Vote 3 only for Select Board…Noonan, Singer and Murray. Vote for financial oversight with Schaeffner for School Committee. Vote for long awaited transparency on the Board of Health with Tom McMahon. By including new members on boards that have been mostly the same for the past decade, we achieve balance and encourage valuable conversation at public meetings. That is Democracy folks!