Thursday, October 1, 2009

Town Council Candidate - Judith Pond Pfeffer

Judy Pfeffer and I sat down recently as part of the series on candidates for election on November 3, 2009. We discussed the four questions I am asking of all the candidates. Judy's answers follow each question.

1 - What is Franklin's big issue? What steps should we take to resolve it?

The big issue is money, always has been and will continue to be.. We don't have enough, we've never had enough, and I don't see any way we're going to increase to raise more funds.  We have some parcels of land that I know we're looking at cleaning up the titles where they might be salable. With the economy the way it is, I don't know how much we can get, if there is any market for them. We would be shooting ourselves in the foot, if we sell off land to have houses built. Any monies realized from sale of town property would not go into the operating budget – could be utilized to pay off some of our debt and reduce our debt burden.  With the average property tax, we are already at a deficit in covering the cost of one child going to the schools. The high school renovation is something that we as a town need to address. If the State allocates funding for us the state will only address 31% of the total cost. The balance of cost is to be paid by the town; this will be a debt in the tens of millions of dollars. That will be a debt exclusion question in which the citizens of Franklin will make the final decision.  So the issue is money!

2 - What is your position on the proposed Charter revisions?

I have been in favor of the Council being on staggered terms but after the presentation given by Paul Cheli, Larry Benedetto, and Michael Walker Jones ( the initial charter review committee appointed by the Council Chair Chris Feeley). I am reconsidering. My concern had been that if all nine were replaced, things would fall apart. Their presentation showed that the Administration would hold things together and that makes sense. I think the citizens like the fact that they can vote everyone out, even though they don't all come out and vote, they like knowing that if they wanted to, they could get rid of everybody. So I have no problem with the Council staying the way it is. I do think all the housekeeping matters need to be taken care of (that Jeff (Nutting) wanted done) to will make things smoother and easier I firmly believe that the Treasurer should be appointed – we are a 100 million dollar business and the treasurer should not be elected by a popularity contest and the most popular person running for the position.

The Town Clerk, I think that should be elected. It is a position that gets involved with all aspects of the people in the town, and is the “face” of the Town of Franklin.. It is not like you need to have a special accounting background, it is something somebody who lives in town should have. I don't think it should be a political position. If you have it appointed, then it is at the whim of every two years, or every four years. .

3 - What use do you envision for the Open Space Fund?

The Open Space Fund, I think we have close to eight million dollars available. We haven't put any money in it the past couple of years. We have used it for the museum and for the library. The money that goes into it comes from the hotel and meal tax. This year we increased that tax amount. I think we should continue to build up the fund. I think we should continue to use it, if we need it, for other capital projects. At some point in time, there is some farm property that may be offered to the Town first because of farm tax abatements which are in effect. These farm properties would be a wonderful place for the Town to purchase.

4 - What is your position on the Financial Planning Committee report? 

The Financial Planning Committee has not come out with their final report yet. We have had different committee do something like this before. The difficulty with it is, you have a group of citizens who often have pre-set ideas on what the Town should do to move forward.  My problem with the draft that I saw is that it seemed to be 99% focused on how not having sufficient funds would effect the schools. A financial plan needs to address all aspects of the town.

There is a Senior Outreach Committee that I am on. What we are trying to do is to keep the seniors in their homes. There are State programs in place that many seniors could utilize and it is not happening. So far we have increased by 20 people in one of the programs so they can get a reduction in their taxes. Many of these seniors have been here their whole life. If the high school renovations go through, even as a debt exclusion, that still increases taxes. Some seniors are making decisions based upon food or medicine. That shouldn't be at this point in time. We are trying to find any way possible so that it would make it easier for them.

I am also on the Housing Trust Committee. We currently have over a million dollars. We are trying to provide down payment assistance to first time home buyers, who are buying within the Town. These houses would always remain affordable by utilization of a deed rider.  We hope to provide at least six down payment assistant payments. That would enable us to buy houses and turn them into homes for families.We need something for the first time home buyers. There are a number of houses now in downtown Franklin that would be good for this. We have forwarded our proposal to the state as we would like to  move quickly to get this approved. .


Address:  79 Cottage Street
Age: 65

Education: Franklin High School
                 Framingham State College – B.S. in Education
                 Suffolk Law School – J. D.

Years in Franklin:  63

Positions Held:
Charter Member, Friends of Franklin Elders
Clerk, Franklin Housing Partnership, 1990 to 2009
Member, Franklin Housing Trust
Member, Town Capital Budget Committee (4 years)
Chair, Senior Outreach Committee
Former long term member, Finance Committee
Current Clerk, Town Council

Reasons for wanting to serve on the Town Council

Judy comes from a long line of family members who served the Town; her Uncle Leonard Remington was a long term member of Franklin School Committee (Remington school named after him), her Uncle Connor Pond was a long term fire chief; Mother Maybelle Pond was a long term teacher at Parmenter School; Uncle Walter Crowley was a long time Town physician; Uncle Tom Pond was a former town selectman. She believes that one should give back to their community, and work within that community to make it better for the citizens.

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