Monday, April 27, 2009

live reporting - Q&A #2

Q - the fear that I have is that my taxes are increasing 20% but the services my kids are getting in school is going down. I am okay with paying more taxes but I need to know what that number is. Relive peoples fear. I don't know if you can do what I just asked. I know it is hard but that is what I need. These numbers are scary but with the taxes increase and the schools services being cut that doesn't help.
A - Zollo - in terms of wage earners, most people are not spending the same each year, due to a variety of reasons. Cost of gov't does not go down. Inflation doesn't go down. Costs will go up. There is a built in subsidy. Three children. Avg citizen pays 4500 taxes, per student cost is 9200. The Zollo subsidy covers police, fire, etc. I will have received in the aggregate 250,000. I could stay here forever but I'll never pay it back. What is the reason for bringing it up? If I would educate my children on my own, it would still cost me more. The demand for the twon and housing in the town. The housing thirty years ago will be sold for more now.

If we were closer to the median, we would be in a better position with the adiditonal funds.

A - Whalen - you did a great job describing the difficulty and the challenges we have here. We are a pretty efficient shop. I am a research analsyst and that is what the numbers tell me. It really all comes down to, what kind of town do we want live in?

A - Bartlett - if you look at Page 14, there is the range of the 8.5M and 12.1M.

Q - Have you factored in the assessed values going down?
A - The 2.5% doesn't apply to each individual taxe rate. It applies to the overall town rate.
A - Bartlett the 8.5M would equate to a 22% increase

Q - financial forecasts are not actional, translate to something we can relate to; i.e police or fire, etc. Don't go back and re-do it. Clarification on the health care cost savings of 1M?
A - Roche - the 1M came from the difference in the original projected cost and the recent bid. That is one time savings.

Q - Has the town investigated farming out the tax collection? Hotels, meals tax, how much will it generate? In Florida, they have an impact fee.
A - We get 100% of our taxes, even if they are late we get 14% interest on the amount late. Against the law for an impact fee, it was through out by the courts. We have proposals for the hotel/meals tax but they have not been enacted yet. It would help but not solve our problem. It will diversify our tax receipts.

Q - On the health care side, how does the Town do it?
A - We pay about 7M for all our health care. We have been very successful working with the unions. With an increase of co-pay and a decrease in premium, it makes sense. They have worked well with us.

Q - The state has more people, they must have more bargaining power.
A - Nutting, actually our plan is better than the State plan. We look at it every year.

Q - With teachers at about 60K, can you bring in somebody for less
A - working and wages are subject to bargaining conditions

Q - with the health care, is there an opportunity to work with surrounding towns if we are the lowest, that would be something to gain
A - teacher pensions are not paid for by the town. There are 106 pension systems in the Commonwealth when there should be one. No one would design a system where there are 351 communities in the state. It will be hard to change. We do things like this every year. It is not just a public thing. It takes a lot of momentum to get things done.

Q - For me, a good school is not the thing. The curriculum is the key
A - Nutting - the school committee would agree with you.

Reminder - our meetings are open meetings

Q - split tax?
A - Roche - If we do decide a split tax rate, it doesn't allow us to raise any more money.
A - Whalen - there is a decided majority on the Finance Committee and Town Council not to do so in order to encourage business to relocate here.
A - Zollo - it is worth noting that the residential versus business is 80% to 20%. We would need a more diversified tax base. The time to make your feelings known is in November at the Town Council tax hearings.

Q - page 12 - net school spending, we are descending, based upon what we know today, what are we doing to prepare?
A - This is one of the reasons we have prepared this report.

Q - We need to be more frequent. These are general statements, we need to be more specific.

Q - Why did you get to the 31? You used some in some reports but others in some reports.
A - We picked the towns were the most comparable. We also wanted to use data that anyone could check on. We chose the DOE numbers because they are available. Norfolk was excluded only because they had not submitted their numbers to the state.

Q - My point earlier was the numbers are all good,
A - You're crossing over into a very subjective area. If you're across the board lower, there must be something there.

Q - You're only getting efficiency when there is a comparison on the same services?
A - I can't tell you how we could measure our schools with Walpoles. I see them as facing eminent decline.

A - Zollo - I don't disagree at a statisical level but at a general level it is fair to say, you know reputationally how they are doing. They are not out on the curve one way or the other.

Q - Should you include the grow projections for the school for the next five years? I know it would be beneficial.
A - The numbers are available. The total at the high school is projected to be about 1700

Q - Important to have our local reps (Spilka, Brown, Vallee) look at the legislation in process.
A - thank you!

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