Each week, the Abington News is asking the five candidates for the board of selectmen a question to help voters better understand them as candidates. Election Day is Saturday, April 24.
This week’s question is: What is your plan for keeping residential property taxes low while also maintaining or improving town services? You may also disagree with the premise of this question.
This is an interesting question, indeed. After careful thought my response is to “disagree with the premise of the question” for the following reasons:
The question asks for “my plan”. I don’t believe that I, my fellow candidates, or any current Selectman has a magic wand (or plan) to keep residential property taxes low, while also maintaining or improving town services. That would be an ideal situation, if feasible. I’m not going to recite a list of political promises that I can’t keep. That being said, it is “our” responsibility to keep spending in check (i.e., prudent fiscal oversight), while providing optimal services to our residents.
Property taxes are generally viewed by residents as the most unpopular of all taxes. As a 27-year Abington property tax payer, my checkbook “sweats” every time that quarterly expense comes due! It’s a huge hit to the budget. However, property taxes are a stable and reliable revenue source and a necessity to town operations.
Acceptance of the property tax depends on residents’ perceptions of fairness. Taxpayers expect similar tax liabilities for similar properties. They also expect a “fair” return on their investment. If residents perceive that there is waste, fraud, or abuse, then they will resent “any amount” that they pay in property taxes.
Collectively, the Board of Selectman and Town Management (including all department heads, boards and committees) are responsible to the residents for scrutinizing every dollar spent in a fiscal year in town operations, as well as every dollar spent in capital improvements.
Having been a Human Resources Director and a small business owner, I know the challenge of proposing, executing, and maintaining operational budgets. I don’t profess to know the inner workings of such in a municipal government, but I believe my conceptual knowledge and business life experience is transferrable and would be advantageous to the Abington Board of Selectman.
Over the last three years we have worked hard to lay the groundwork to be able to provide, at minimum, level services for years to come without burdening the tax payers. During the two full budget cycles I have sat on the Board of Selectmen, we have been able to allocate substantial amounts for the stabilization fund, leaving us with over $3.2 million dollars in reserve. This is the number one thing that will keep our good credit rating, thus, our borrowing abilities strong and interest rates low.
As we all know town revenue took a huge hit in FY 21, but because of our fiscally conservative budgeting in past years we are better prepared to succeed moving forward than most towns our size. Moving forward it will be very difficult to sustain level services without the burden being felt by the taxpayers. We will need experienced leadership to make this happen. As we’ve seen over the past three years, and will continue to see moving forward, we cannot be afraid to think outside the box.
Regionalization of Fire and Police dispatch services is a start. This thinking will possibly allow us to add services while other towns are making cuts. We have requested $300,000 from the Commonwealth in the FY 22 budget to start a regionalized planning office to be shared with the towns of Whitman, and Rockland. I will continue to advocate for this type of thinking moving forward. Including the possibility of sharing both personal and possibly non-essential equipment with local communities. Combining the position of Finance Director with Assistant Town Manager will provide the town with a yearly savings of over $100,000 moving forward while still providing the Town Manager the support he needs.
Also, with the creation of the capital planning committee, we have added an extra layer of protection to the taxpayers, ensuring that we are smart and conservative with our capital project planning in the coming years, prioritizing needs over wants when needed, and upgrading buildings and equipment when possible.
The strength of Abington’s economy will be essential to the stability of Abington town services and lowering the burden on taxpayers. Abington took a hit of lost revenue in 2020 from the COVID-19 pandemic. Even though this happened for FY22, Abington will likely have a balance budget with no cut to town services. My experience in maintaining budgets while keeping essential services in the private sector will be a tremendous asset to the Board of Selectmen.
In order to lessen the burden on the Abington taxpayer, it is critical we expand our commercial base and take in more revenue. I am determined as your next Selectman to work hand and hand with Union Point to establish our much needed commercial base on our property in Union Point. Promoting Abington as a business friendly community will help generate new revenue. We need growth not just in our undeveloped commercial properties, but our existing commercial properties as well. Abington needs new business and current businesses to grow. I am also looking forward to the generated revenue our Town will accumulate from the sales from retail marijuana establishments. As towns and cities around us can attest, the revenue influx from these establishments have proven to be very beneficial. Growing Abington’s economy is key to a successful future.
As most Abington’s taxpayers can testify to, property taxes in our community are climbing too high for the average family. As a lifelong resident of Abington, I have zero intentions to move to another community. Abington is one town, one family and I intent to settle down here with a family and live my days in the home of the Greenwave. I am determined to manage our town’s budget in a fiscally responsible manner, advocate for new ways to lower the property taxes and fight to grow new revenue through commercial property.
I stand firm on maintaining our towns services. I do not support cutting our essential services that help make Abington great. Our Fire, Police, School, Sewer, Water, Council On-Aging, Library, Town Hall departments and all town services need to be properly funded. We own it to our residents and taxpayers to maintain our services. In difficult times, we need to be inventive on how to properly fund our services without hurting the taxpayers wallet. I pledge to fight for the taxpayers and maintain our services we need and deserve.