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Letter to the Editor: Getting it Done Without Overrides

The following letter to the editor was sent in by Jack Buba.

What if Marblehead could fix the Old Town House, buy a new fire truck AND fix the drains without raising taxes and without impacting services? I suspect your reply would be “That seems impossible - how?”

Here is how: the town had budgeted for a big increase in insurance expenses for the coming year. Then the town joined the State insurance system. This insurance change “saved the town $2 million” per year according to Tony Sasso at Town Meeting.

From this savings our leaders agreed to give the town employees raises.  The annual cost of the raises is approximately $800,000; leaving 1.2 million per year unspent. Over just 3 years that is $3.6 million in savings.

Why then do we need an override to fix the Old Town House for about $500K? Why then do we need an override to buy a fire truck for $1.2 million? Why, when already we have the money?

Answer: We don’t need an override for these priority projects. But, how do we fix the drains ($4.9 million)? Answer: We borrow the money – without an override.

Presently the town uses all of your non-override tax money to pay “operating expenses." Any time a big expense comes up; they come to you for an override. It doesn’t have to be that way. Let’s go back to the numbers. Over just 3 years we had $3.6 million left in savings from our insurance change. If we spend $500K on the town house and $1.2 million on the fire truck we have still have $1.9 million remaining.

All we need is a fraction of that $1.9 million annually to pay the principal and interest on a loan (bond) to repair the drains – without an override. And the Selectmen will still have a lot left over to spend on other things! Imagine that, the town borrows money for necessary expenses - without an override!

Then they pay for it out of regular tax revenue; just like all of you do when you pay your mortgages or car payments out of your paychecks. There is no override option for your personal expenses. I urge all my fellow taxpayers to vote NO on these overrides and demand that the Selectmen spend YOUR existing, hard earned, tax money on these priority projects.

P.S. Regarding the land purchase: it comes down to whether you want to pay more taxes to preserve this open space or you would rather have about $100,000 per year in new tax revenue, compounded by prop 2 1/2,  forever when the land is developed.  I’d rather have the money.  

Jack Buba is Treasurer of Marblehead Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility and a former FINCOM member. He can be reached at Marbleheadcfr@gmail.com

Richard June 14, 2012 at 04:29 PM
That math just doesn't work. To generate $100,000 in revenue/year from the lead mills land would require a development valued around $10 million. So let's assume 10 single families homes. (I don't think the zoning would permit it, but let's go with that). Most new single family homes, especially in that price range, are 4 bedroom and are purchased by families with children. Conservatively, if you estimate 1 child/household that's 10 children. The town spends about $12K a year per student, but there's some offsetting state money, so let's call it $10k. So factoring in the school costs alone uses up that $100K in revenue - and, of course, there are other costs as well (which would likely end up being more than the override cost). Even completely ignoring the quality of life issue, taxpayers are likely better off purchasing the land than allowing it to be developed.
John Buba June 14, 2012 at 05:00 PM
Sorry Richard my numbers come from the Assessor, call him yourself. If you want the open space just vote for it. The numbers are sound, the parcel is currently zoned for 5 very pricey homes.
MHH101 June 14, 2012 at 06:36 PM
Richard....the incremental cost of adding 5-10 more students would be next to nothing because after numerous overrides over the last 10 years, the taxpayers have already added far more classroom space and support resources then actually needed. For example; built a new high school, because proponents said the old building was to old and could not be renovated, for a capacity of 1200, whereas the student body is only around 800. Then turned around and renovated the old high school into the Veterans middle school, following by converting the now unoccupied Village middle school into a grade school. Also added a charter school as well. Lastly, according to the 2010 census, during the last 10 years, Marblehead's population has fallen by 569 residents. From 2000 to 2010, the population growth percentage was -2.8% (from 20,377 people to 19,808 people).
MHH101 June 14, 2012 at 07:05 PM
The proponents say that the Lead Mills Glover Estates property is assessed at $2,000,000 and the town is getting a bargain selling price for $1,800,000. I just checked the online assessment data for the site that Glover Estates owns and....... Parcel 55-1-0 consists of .73 acres and is assessed at $8,800 Parcel 55-3-0 consists of 1.899 acres and is assessed at $248,800 So, the total acreage and assessment is respectively 2.629 acres and $257,600. Additionally, the last sale was in 1999, in the amount $155,000
Brisa Del Mar June 15, 2012 at 01:00 AM
Im with Jack. No on overides. Take the loan. (of course when it's OPM...)

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