[Editor's note: The following Letter to the Editor was submitted by Stoneham resident and former Board of Selectman R. Paul Rotondi.]
The Beacon Hill Gang (BHG) is coming to confiscate Stoneham taxpayers’ wallets. One if by the community preservation surcharge, two if by making the trash fee permanent and three if by eliminating the 2 ½ percent limit on yearly operating budget increases.
Stoneham’s real estate tax revenue is forecasted to increase dramatically over the next few years as a result of the completion of four major developments. The BHG’s goal is clear, to use this money to feed the never ending appetite of the local government bureaucracy, rather than to use it to provide taxpayer relief.
Their strategy is to go beyond Proposition 2 1/2 and generate revenue outside of the normal property tax by the establishment of fees and surcharges. This extra money will be used to pay for normal expenses such as trash collection and field maintenance which should be paid for out from the real estate taxes. This allows for more of our real estate taxes to be spent on operating department’s budgets for salary increases or additional jobs.
The BHG is pushing for the acceptance of the Community Preservation Act by the voters in the coming town election. If this property tax surcharge (override) is passed the taxpayers will get charged yearly an additional 1 percent on their tax bill. More importantly, this money must be spent for items normally paid for out of department budgets; field maintenance, historic resources, open space and community housing. Taking these expenses out of normal operating budget items allows for more money in the operating budgets to grow town government.
The trash fee was established to help the town maintain services through the recent downturn in the economy. The plan was to eliminate this fee once the forecasted increase in real estate tax revenues mentioned above became a reality. The BHG and other elected officials are pushing to make the trash fee permanent. The rationale is simple: Use the expected increase in real estate tax revenue to grow the individual departments, not for tax relief for the taxpayers by eliminating the trash fee.
There was one more step needed to complete this grab for the taxpayer’s wallet: Eliminate the “Budget Agreement” requirement that department operating budgets could not increase more than 2 ½ percent. A few months ago, led by the BHG, the town leaders modified the Budget Agreement. Under the claim of making it better and fairer, they quietly eliminated the cap on department budget increases.
With these three things in place, they can utilize all of the forecasted increase in real estate tax revenue for salary increases and more government jobs. The taxpayers can look forward to a return to the days when town department budgets increased 5 to 7 percent per year, and no taxpayer relief.
The election season has started and the candidates for office are beginning to knock on doors asking for your vote. When they knock on your door, ask them:
- Do you believe the trash fee should be permanent?
- Do you believe that the taxpayers should pay a surcharge for normal expenses?
- Do you believe that budgets should increase more than 2 ½ percent per year?
- Do you believe that additional funds should be used for taxpayer relief?