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Selectmen Candidates Q&A: Taxes, Water And Sewer Rates

Part 3 in our Q&A series with the candidates for the Board of Selectmen deals with taxes and the high cost of water and sewer.

(Editor's Note: This is the third in a four-part series in which Tewksbury Patch asked the candidates for Selectmen for their views on some of the hot-button issues residents have been talking about.)

Taxpayers have been pounded recently with substantial increases in property taxes and water and sewer rates. In your opinion, what can be done to ease the burden on local taxpayers?

Kenneth Miano: The never-ending saga of the Town of Tewksbury being one of the highest water/sewer rates in Massachusetts. We could go back to the start by saying we bit off way more than we could handle, but we cannot, so now we have to deal with what is in front of us. I once had a property that was serviced by the MWRA. I used to pay around 1200 per year for water/sewer. Once they changed out my meter, that price jumped to over $4000.00. So evidently, I was not paying my fair share. At this point in time, everyone should be paying their fair share of this capital infrastructure build out. We should offer an amnesty program for Homeowners who may be illegally tied into the system, to come forward and do the right thing. There should be no penalties for them coming forward. This would be so that we could get a proper Accounting of all of our resources used. The second phase I would look at is some sort of Hot Line Program where a citizen could leave anonymous tips regarding violators. After all, homeowners who are tied into the system illegally are putting a greater financial responsibility on everyone else. Increased inspections would be the third phase in order to try and gain compliance. One last thought on the water/sewer issue. As residents conserve, and consumption decreases, I don’t believe it is fair to raise the rates to maintain the revenue flow. It feels like I am being punished for conservation.

We definitely need to bring more business to our town. I would want to identify all existing vacant parcels and build a portfolio with pictures and all pertinent data for those parcels. This portfolio could then be put on line and or shopped around to businesses so that they can see developmental opportunities in Tewksbury. We could provide prospective businesses with a graduated tax scale incentive while their business starts to mature. We could also strike a deal to provide Tewksbury residents employment opportunities. Great things can happen when everyone works together.

David Gay: This issue is a major concern to the Board of Selectmen and the Town Manager. As a resident who also pays water and sewer bills I am in favor of relief to the residents of Tewksbury which the Town Manager has indicated that he is working on currently. The town is trying to bring in additional revenue from new businesses like Thermo-Fisher to increase our tax base which would ultimately ease some of the tax burden for Tewksbury residents.

Scott Wilson: Our current Board of Selectmen has worked hard to ease the burden on local taxpayers.  During the last three years, health care costs have increased and State Aid has declined and like most families in Tewksbury, we have committed to do more with less.   We are now operating our departments with less people and money. We have also streamlined services and have negotiated with our unions to help manage the overall costs to our town.

Just this year we shifted the local property tax levy which means the property tax burden has been shifted away from residents.  By law, we have created the maximum allowable tax shift, thus easing the burden on our residents.

A year ago, I suggested a Senior Property Tax Relief Program to our Town Manager and we are working on implementing that for FY13.  This will give our seniors in the community opportunities to work for the town, thus giving them an opportunity to save on their property taxes.

We have been able to maintain our bond rating in town which has allowed us to finance debt at a lower rate.   We are paying off leases in our FY13 budget which will significantly save the taxpayers money on interest costs. We have worked on having our pension costs recalculated and also removed those from the enterprise funds.   

The average single family tax increase this year was $551 ($258 is for the sewer debt shift, $146 is for the new high school & $147 is the year over year increase). Besides capital improvements, we have level-funded our budgets and continued to live within our means.

I am committed to continuing to look for ways to ease the tax burden on my fellow residents. The most effective way is to increase the number of residents and businesses in Tewksbury. This increases the overall tax base and reduces the tax burden for all residents. That means making Tewksbury a top destination location. I believe that with residents and town government working together, we can achieve that goal.

Three years ago, I was elected to the Board of Selectman and we were in the process of a 10-year implementation of the Sewer Project. In conjunction with our new Town Manager, we made the decision to deal with that issue rather than “kick the can” down the road for another Board to address. It certainly isn’t a popular issue but I committed to you that I would deal with the tough issues if I was elected as a Selectman. I make that same commitment now.

Robert Marcin: First and foremost I would take a stance against increases in these taxes. Whether we like it or not our economy has changed and it is going to take time to heal our wounds. If I could waive a magic wand and lower taxes without any supplementing solution I would, but unfortunately that is not a reality.

What I can do however, is place a heavy focus on improving the efficiency of how this money is used and how we as residents can save ourselves money. Forming a subcommittee which focuses on these issues and dedicate their time towards its improvement is one idea that I believe could work. If state aid is possible then I would be willing to work with the state to gain grants or help inform residents on ways to conserve water and educate them on tax incentives that they may not be aware of at this time.

(The final part in our series, on Friday, will deal with communication and trust.)

Dirk Anderson March 22, 2012 at 04:20 PM
David Gay, perhaps you could tell us a question that you WOULD give an answer to?
mike t March 22, 2012 at 04:21 PM
How about getting town employees to pay for their health care like everyone else? How about getting rid of this bogus pension system and just offer a 401K plan to town employees like everyone else? How about removing health and dental from pensioner's benefits and making them use medicare like the rest of us and buying their own supplemental insurance. We need to stop providing people who work for the town for only 20 years with upwards of 50 years of pensioner benefits. If the unions don't like it they can leave. There are many qualified residents that would work town jobs in a heartbeat. As Robert Marcin said "our economy has changed". Let's change the way we spend our tax dollars along with how much we collect from our taxpayers!
R Miano March 22, 2012 at 04:32 PM
Is it me or does Selectman Gay keep dancing around these questions? How do we elect someone who can't give an answer?
Dirk Anderson March 22, 2012 at 04:42 PM
Mike, I agree that we need to stop pensions for new employees. We ned to do this at local, state and federal levels. The private sector has virtually eliminated pensions, it's time for the government to end them as well. I believe we are compelled to fund pensions for existing employees though. Medical and dental should be more comparable to the private sector as well.
Under Dog March 22, 2012 at 05:32 PM
So here's what I got so far... Q..In your opinion, what can be done to ease the burden on local taxpayers? 1, Find out who is tied into the sewer system illegally without penalties for coming forward but start paying into the system. 2, We definitely need to bring more business to our town, provide prospective businesses with a graduated tax scale incentive while their business starts to mature. 3,This issue is a major concern to the Board of Selectmen and the Town Manager, I'm in favor of relief to the residents of Tewksbury which the Town Manager has indicated that he is working on currently 4,Senior Property Tax Relief Program, give our seniors in the community opportunities to work for the town, thus giving them an opportunity to save on their property taxes, maintain our bond rating, 5, We are paying off leases in our FY13 budget which will significantly save the taxpayers money on interest costs. We have worked on having our pension costs recalculated and also removed those from the enterprise funds. 6, Place a heavy focus on improving the efficiency of how money is used and how we as residents can save ourselves money, This is all great stuff but it is also a "Duh" moment for me.
Under Dog March 22, 2012 at 05:41 PM
Where is all the creativity? mike t is at least looking out of the box a little. I wander if working for the town as a senior or whatever may come into conflict with the Union's and their contracts. How are those New Meter installations in municipal buildings working out for us? Remember those buildings that never had meters? Who paid for all that water then and now? Are they connected to the sewer system? Who pays for that? Foget it, it was a trick question. There is no doubt that the only way to ease the burden on local taxpayers is to dope slap them into reality, and get them involved in what is going on in your town by speaking, reading about, and showing up to events that are all about the town.
Melissa Gleaton March 22, 2012 at 06:09 PM
How do you ease the burden on local taxpayers? STOP SPENDING MONEY WE DON'T HAVE. Don't take out loans for things we DON'T NEED.
Kathleen Brothers March 22, 2012 at 06:23 PM
YOU HIT THE NAIL RIGHT ON THE HEAD, MELISSA. DON'T SPEND WHAT YOU DON'T HAVE!!! This seems to land on deaf ears, nobody listens. Spend, Spend, Spend. Question? Does anyone know who is paying for the signs along the road that say VOTE YES. Off topic a little, but not really. Still a spending question.
jo March 22, 2012 at 07:22 PM
I had the same thought about those signs. Back on topic it appears that David Gay could suffer a loss of votes from this exercise over the last three days. Too bad, good guy, but bad answers.
Bee Free March 22, 2012 at 08:06 PM
the vote yes signs are the athletic complex friend group they use donations
malcolm nichols March 23, 2012 at 11:22 AM
Let's buy more Stuff, double our tax rate and get the elderly and fixed income out of town. Sarcasm, but that is what we are doing. There is little we can do about our water and sewer system other that maintain it. What we can do is stop wasting money on silly things like ...Finish Strong???? You got to be kidding me??? just finish
malcolm nichols March 23, 2012 at 12:26 PM
Why not pose this question to our BOS re pension system for all government employees?
Jon Pratt March 23, 2012 at 12:55 PM
Its just unintended consequences from fast track projects pushed thru with urgency and promises of a better lifestyle. How it plays out with the details is not their concern. Support us because we are doing yomens work on your behalf. oh by the way please send your wallet
Bill. S March 23, 2012 at 05:11 PM
Mike, I agree, I have always said that the unions hold the town hostage. You can not get blood from a stone. As a blue collar worker, I currently pay just over $6000 per year for health ins. We need at least a 50/50 split for town employees on health ins. If they dont like it they can go work someplace else, that is what I hear from my company.
JW March 23, 2012 at 05:27 PM
Bill, I'm a town employee and pay about $6000.00 a year for a family health care plan. You have no idea what you are talking about. Get a life!!!!!!!!!!!!
malcolm nichols March 23, 2012 at 05:59 PM
What does health insurance have to do with your job. Why does your job get you health insurance?
Who Me? March 23, 2012 at 07:51 PM
Pure....unmitigated Bull Dung.......
Brian Dick March 23, 2012 at 09:19 PM
Kathleen, they were paid for by the generousity of the FTCAC committee members. The generous donations that have been collected from businesses and people who support the effort will be going towards the project. We have raised over $50,000 to date. We have at least another $90,000 coming in from TD Bank over the next 10 years and growing. If you would like to help please check out the website at www.ftcac.org.
Kathleen Brothers March 23, 2012 at 09:31 PM
Thanks for the info, Brian. I will look into that website.
whaat? March 24, 2012 at 12:58 AM
Ok, let me get this straight. Mr. Miano thinks its ok for people to be stealing sewer but if they come forward then it's ok...no penalty. So I'm going to Wal-Mart, steal a bunch of things but then go back and tell them so I won't get in trouble?????? Yea, that's the person I want speaking for me as a Selectmen. I pay sewer and have been since I connected legally, so I'm not for allowing someone who connected illegally to get a break. Please!
Friend of Ferncroft March 24, 2012 at 01:35 AM
how does someone hook up to sewer and the town doesn't know about it?? We have a board of health and a building department.... right???
Jay March 24, 2012 at 04:56 AM
Is there an independent company that can do an internal investigation or audit? I'd feel more comfortable with an outside company coming in to help the town locate it. This way it's an honest search and no shenanigans, I just think the town knows more than we are being told. When Stoneham shuffled the deck with their water dept there was a huge spike in water, drastic increase, something's couldn't be covered up anymore. I'm not pointing a finger but I'm not nieve either.
Kathleen Brothers March 24, 2012 at 12:41 PM
There should be NO AMNESTY for illegal sewer users! Mr Roux, board of health, brought it up at the last meeting. This was the first time I had heard of it. If indeed it is happening, please find out who is doing it and prosecute them. NO AMNESTY for thieves! This is why the citizens have to watch dog who they elect to boards and committee's, We have to have people in those positions that are looking out for us!
Dave March 24, 2012 at 04:39 PM
How about putting a referendum on the ballot regarding town employees compensation package; changes that the taxpayers would like to see. Since we the property owners are being billed for these benefits then we should have a say as to this money is being spent...Follow the gov't waste
Melissa Gleaton March 25, 2012 at 07:26 PM
How the hell do people tear up the street without permits to hook up to the sewer illegally? Dont people NOTICE something like that?
Kathleen Brothers March 25, 2012 at 07:34 PM
Better question, Melissa. How does the town know this has happened? And why haven't they done something about it before now? Amnesty??????!!!!
Sean Czarniecki March 25, 2012 at 07:35 PM
Melissa - when the sewer was installed, stubs were added which end at everyone's properties (that's why we had to tell them where we would put our sewer line in the future....and it is meant to stop people from tearing up the street).

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