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LETTER: Question 1 Is 'Irresponsible'

Reader cites the inability to take on more of a financial burden in difficult economic times.

To The Editor:

It is irresponsible to impose the burden of financing an athletic complex on our citizens during these economic times. Let's finish building the Tewksbury High School before proceeding with further endeavors. The residents of Tewksbury have been extremely supportive of many capital improvement projects over the years but when is enough, enough?

A recent Lowell Sun article points out that the Tewksbury Real Estate Tax rate for the average homeowner has increased 22% since 2008, this combined with the huge increases in the water and sewer rates has left many residents struggling. Perhaps some have not considered that these increased levies have a direct negative impact on their real estate values, as it is more difficult to attract buyers when taxes are escalating and surrounding towns appear to be more fiscally responsible.

If the supporters of the 1.95 million dollar sports complex want to make contributions to this project they should do so, and have consideration for those who prefer not to. There are other avenues to financing this project that perhaps they should explore.

Many parents think it’s important to provide these types of amenities for their sons and daughters, however perhaps it’s time to take a longer term view and ask ourselves - are we going to leave the town of Tewksbury in a position where the next generation will be able to afford to raise their families should they desire to do so? To “Finish Strong” perhaps this should be our goal!

William Dion

billvill April 11, 2012 at 12:48 PM
I have a daughter at TMHS and I'm still voting no. Enough IS enough.
Melissa Gleaton April 11, 2012 at 02:41 PM
Don't forget, the Town will have their hand out again in due time for new elementary schools and a new central fire station. Everyone says, "not building this complex will not get us new elementary schools or fire stations". This is true. HOWEVER... If we come in under budget by $6M. That's $6M we don't have to borrow NOW. We will need to borrow that $6M (and then some) for the NEEDED capital improvements in this town. Save the $6M now, and use it when the schools/firestation projects are ready to come up. I'd rather do that, than spend ANY of that "savings" (it's really not a savings, since it's not ours to begin with) on something that is unneeded AT THIS TIME. Am I crazy? Am I the only one who SEES this?
SD From T-Bury April 11, 2012 at 03:02 PM
I see it Melissa, and agree.
D.James April 11, 2012 at 03:51 PM
Totally agree with Melissa its becoming outrageously expensive to live in this town property taxes are higher than ever paychecks have stayed the same or gone down in the recent years ... Enough is way past enough
john carroll April 11, 2012 at 04:34 PM
In their infinite wisdom the Town Fathers put sewerage ahead of education. Your taxes are up. Your services are down. Your schools have a lower than low reputation. Friends of ours finally took their house off the market. They could not give it away do the reputation of the schools. Keep it all in mind when you vote on Saturday.
Karyn April 11, 2012 at 04:42 PM
Some of us see it, Melissa....the others are blinded by "Friday Night Lights." VOTE NO on Saturday!
denise April 11, 2012 at 05:22 PM
Agree with you Melissa...i too have kids in Public school here, and I will VOTING NO!!!
Christian Panasuk April 11, 2012 at 05:27 PM
I have an "average" house in Tewksbury, est. at around $300-325K. In 2008 my real estate taxes were $3800, and this past year (with first hit from the new HS & sewer "help") I'm up to $5025. This is a 32% increase. I would be in favor of the debt exemptions in the near future to fund a new central fire station & improvements to any of the elementary schools. I was in favor of the new HS. I am not in favor of a debt exemption for an upgraded athletic facility as presented. If anyone cares, I would have been in favor of a much smaller amount to include only the needed tennis courts in the already approved facility. This whole process makes me wonder what else might be needed at the new HS, but is not included as "approved" as an expenditure under the state matching grant? Why didn't the school committee write a proposal to include other extras for the whole building, that might be appropriate -- say for the library, auditorium, science labs, etc? Do the "Friends of the Tewksbury Arts" have to form and really consider if the stage, sound system, AV & lighting are up to par "for the kids" and outside groups who will be CHARGED to use the venue? When the pitch was being made for the HS, we were told numerous times: "this is the maximum that the town would have to barrow. We're not sure, but it looks really good to come in under budget given the current economy and construction costs. If that happens, we will only have to barrow the actual amount, not the $83m."
Donna Beatrice April 11, 2012 at 05:35 PM
I agree with you, taxed have gone way up and oh yes, do not forget the water bill. I have lived here my entire life and over the next few years will have to sell, as you said, our paychecks have not gone up but everything else has. Save it for when you really need it. Donna
Dirk Anderson April 12, 2012 at 11:48 AM
I see this, but I'm not testifying that you aren't crazy.
Dirk Anderson April 12, 2012 at 11:53 AM
I've been saying the same thing Christian. We need tennis courts, fine, we can build a couple of tennis courts. Nobody needs astroturf and night games.
Mary April 12, 2012 at 12:38 PM
Thanks to all of the residents that have made very intelligent observations to this proposal. I have been saying right along that the students in this town that want to pursue a sport can do so on the field that was voted on. They do not need a field with lights, camera, action! I grew up in New York City and was lucky to get a piece of concrete to bounce a ball on. We had small yards in the back of our school and for sports advocates they still were able to work with it. We had some big time athletes graduate and pursued their sports career. I graduated an honor student even though I was in a overloaded classroom of at least 45 to 50 students. The point I am trying to make is that you want to learn, or play sports, you make due with what is given to you. With all this said, I am taxed out in this town, I would like to see money spent on important things, like the South Street Fire Station, upgrades to our elementary schools, repaving of our badly deteriorated roads, etc. etc. I could go on forever. My vote is definitely NO.
Eric braciska April 12, 2012 at 02:14 PM
A few facts in relation to Tewksbury's 2012 Tax Rates: 1) Out of 351 cities & towns in Massachusetts, Tewksbury had the highest property tax increase in the state for 2012 of 13%. This $600+ increase in my property tax, definitely hit my radar screen, & am now asking myself, are we getting value for that $ on top of my other local and state tax burden? Clearly time to do some window shopping. 2) After doing a local property tax analysis of the 40 surrounding towns/cities to Tewksbury, I learned Tewksbury now has the 11th highest tax rate ($14.93/$1k) of these 40 towns/cities which almost puts the town in the top quartile which includes towns like Groton, Topsfield, Stow, Westford, Boxborough, and Littleton. The towns of Reading, Lynnfield, Winchester, Andover, Middleton, North Andover, Marblehead, Georgetown, Newburyport, Ipswich, Groveland, Boxford, Essex, & Rowley to name a few, now have a lower property tax rate than Tewksbury. With this additional $2 million in proposed debt, Tewksbury will most likely make it into the top 10 list of these 40 communities highest tax rates for 2013. This is not a list you want to be on top of and I'm sure there are other Tewksbury folks doing similar analyses. People have choices and when folks leave a community due to a high tax burden due to either perception or reality of not receiving value for that burden, everyone loses. I don't know how any group can ask anyone in town to add on more debt after this enormous spending binge.
TONY D April 12, 2012 at 02:58 PM
Everyone here is correct in voting no for this "sports complex". Any features needed for the students to develop their athletic skills should have been built into the original new high school design. We, the Town Citizens, do not have any more money to spend. If we do not have to borrow as much as originally planned for the new high school all the better. Let's see what the actual cost is when the school is finished. I'll venture to say that the savings will not be as much as stated. And if it is, great. If this "sports complex" is approved, where will the money come from for the maintenance of the facility. Where will the money come from for the people to oversee the events that will be held there. It is not just the cost to build it but to run it also. A resounding no vote.
THE MVP April 12, 2012 at 03:11 PM
2nd day on here and my last. THAT was some good facts and presented well. Tewksbury increasing there taxes in 2012 was expected and probably needed based on how this town was run for the past 20 years from what I hear. Ten years ago if you asked around just the merrimack valley and greater Boston are i'm sure you would be told our taxes were low. Not compared to Norton MA , Webster or any other town 60 mins out of Boston, but to the 30 min out towns. So the 351 cities is not really justified, but Tewksbury higher than Reading now? Lynnfield...wow. We must have really been run bad. That said we are stuck here no? Stuck, and not in a bad way, I like it here, I do. The people, community , kids programs are all great. The youth sports does a great job. I paid for that and would have paid extra if it paved the way for kids now to get the what other towns offer. I think thats what we are missing. What is the options? Move to Wilmington which I hear is run great. I'm allset ( plus I just bought a house), and see improvement here. I like the change in administration, think yes THINK we have shaken out those who are do things for the wrong reasons. I don't think this $20 increase will put us over the top, but yes we are near the higher side now. So what to do? Don't invest anymore in the town? Move? The high school being added was a good thing and this should have been included , can we just admit that.
THE MVP April 12, 2012 at 03:19 PM
Why do one without the other? The major cost was the HS not this. $600 a year your taxes increased, not all due to the HS or this. Water ? I think you bring up another great point. Maybe we should direct our attention to that, not $20 a year for a sport complex that should have been included. Am I bleeding red? tewks red? Well I will as long as I live here...with some green for the Celts playoffs. Come in throw in the $20 per year, the police detail cost someone brought up is already in there. They have it now for the Ryan school. They will not have more needed for this complex. Unless Michigan / OSU wants to play a weekend there. I think it is safe to say, those with kids in the system vote yes and the no's are coming from those that look it ike a luxury item. A new cafeteria is a luxury item and that was included. This is part of the package. Kids in the school system or not this is a good thing that people will look at when buying your house and you retire to move to Hyannis , Naples....or Laconia. This committee has worked hard to raise money also, lets not forget that. They are asking and giving. $20 a year. I think they did a good job keeping it low.
Mark April 12, 2012 at 04:03 PM
If its not too much $$$ then why doesnt the FOTAC raise the money privately? Why don't all of the people that will vote yes pool in their own money? I'd vote yes on that.
Dirk Anderson April 12, 2012 at 07:57 PM
MVP, the high school was needed. We voted for it. Astroturf is a luxury that we don't have money for.
Steve Magplate April 12, 2012 at 08:09 PM
Taxes that are based upon a percentage of your property value should only go up with the value of the property. Raising the percentage only increases the burden on the homeowners and by necessity lowers property values. Vote no on 1!
Valerie Ayer April 13, 2012 at 02:27 AM
Good point Mark! Everyone who will vote "yes" should go to Brian and give him their donation instead!! That way they get what they want & our taxes do not go up any more :-) Our taxes are way too high and when you say "what's a little bit more"? Every little bit counts with a lot of people who live paycheck to paycheck to pay bills and food.

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