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LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Support the Senior Property Tax Reduction

Resident Dan De Pompei says the work done on Question 2 should be good enough for the town.

 

Next Tuesday, December 4, we will be offered the opportunity to support or reject legislation designed to help keep seniors in Sudbury. This legislation has been carefully crafted and socialized to better enable our senior taxpayers to stay in their current residence, maintain a diversity of age among our residents and to aid in the management of Sudbury’s budget.  

The former two goals are important to Sudbury’s character and relatively easy to understand.  How this legislation will aid the management of Sudbury’s budget probably deserves additional discussion.  The Budget Review Task Force Final Report of August 2009 validated “Sudbury has a low percentage of taxpayers who do not have school-age children. Education is expensive and is the largest cost center(s) within Sudbury’s budget.  Taxpayers who do not have school-age children are fundamental to a municipality’s ability to fund a quality education for its children.  We have too many students and not enough taxpayers without students.  Our costs are constantly exceeding our revenues.  The structure of our tax base is struggling to support the quality education we demand for our growing number of students.” 

When a senior(s) decide to sell his/her house and move somewhere less expensive, and you consider the desirability of our school system, we have enabled an expansion of the student population and an increase in cost center budgets.  Some residents may feel this legislation is not perfect and could be improved. 

We have been working on this legislation for several years and, although maybe not perfect, I believe it is good enough to meet the immediate primary goals and help keep seniors in Sudbury. We should not let perfect get in the way of good enough. 

I plan to vote in support of  Question 2 “Means Tested Senior Citizen Property Tax Reduction.” In the interest of full disclosure, I do not qualify for the reduction.

Dan De Pompei

Haynes Road

pmotw November 29, 2012 at 02:03 PM
For the first time I disagree with Mr. DePompei. This tax exemption program is not a solution to the financial problems. It's a band aid masking the larger problem and that is the ongoing mismanagement of tax revenue and the balance of residential property development. Creating tax exemptions, entitlements or handouts never addresses a solid resolution for the underlying root cause of the financial problem. Unfortunately, the seniors are the first to feel the brunt of irresponsible tax revenue spending. Next will be the families’ struggling to pay their mortgages and taxes. This will continue to force more residents to move out of town. We should be more focused on why the taxes are too high for everyone and work toward reducing the town’s expenses dollar by dollar. We should be focused on why we continue to allow development of residential properties that increases school enrollment for school systems that are overcrowded and underfunded (according to school officials). We should be focused on school staff compensation/contracts that appear to be excessive compared to other towns, work load and today's economy. We should be focused on why the management or the town and schools are incapable of operating within a budget. A vote in support of this ballot question sends a message the residents are willing to pay more taxes without any concerns of how tax revenue is spent in Sudbury. Follow the money and fix the cause of this financial beast.
ron darden November 29, 2012 at 02:13 PM
Questions: 1) If the article passes will our tax bills reflect a distinct entry for the increase due to the program - eg simialr to the separate 3% Community Preservation surcharge? I, for one, would not want to see this buried and become part of the new normal 2) Is there an exact number as to how much this will cost?
siobhan hullinger November 29, 2012 at 02:23 PM
@ron darden - that's an interesting concept - so are you saying there should be a specific line item entry on our tax bill that defines the dollar amount that is going into the fund? I like that idea, instead of a general tax fund deposit.
SkimThreePercent November 29, 2012 at 02:30 PM
At this point there are far too many questions still out there that are not being addressed. Vote No. We don't need yet another tax hike simply to pay off Ralph Tyler.
Karoles November 29, 2012 at 03:09 PM
Hmmmm. this could have been said about the latest vote at Town Meeting, too many questions not being addressed. Mr. Depompeis 'good enough' is a window in to a lack of interest in details, in addition, sounds like a pandering letter, planning on running? Seniors who need relief deserve a break, this addresses the issue, vote yes.
siobhan hullinger November 29, 2012 at 03:20 PM
The latest vote at Town Meeting was presented, debated and voted on. There have been no other changes. The senior relief that the town voted on was changed AFTER the vote. It is a new bill and should go through the process as such. I'm for it but we should proceed under the process defined in our charter - which the latest vote followed.
siobhan hullinger November 29, 2012 at 03:26 PM
In addition - if you desire the ballot vote for 3-5 perhaps you should be asking Chair O'Brien why he didn't call for the vote himself - it is within the powers of the BOS to call for a ballot vote and it could have been added to the Dec 4th special election. Makes you wonder why he is pushing for someone else to call the vote and not him. I ask you again - What does he have to lose?
pmotw November 29, 2012 at 03:46 PM
re: Mrs Hullinger Can the bill legally be changed after it was voted on? What were the changes and how were they justified? Something isn't right here. Who's watching these people? Is there ANY accountability?
sudburycitizentoo November 29, 2012 at 03:50 PM
No asset test = vote NO
sudburycitizentoo November 29, 2012 at 03:51 PM
3-5 needs a vote
siobhan hullinger November 29, 2012 at 04:22 PM
@pmotw - I don't believe there was anything untoward in the changes after the vote. I believe the group assigned to this by the BOS made some changes and I just think it should have to go back through the full process. As I said, I am a supporter of keeping seniors in town and have said many times that a blended community is a healthy and vibrant community. I just would like to see the bill with the new changes be vetted by the legislative body - town meeting. @sudburycitizentoo - a vote is not mandated or required under our charter. If a ballot vote was so necessary - the Chair of the BOS would have called for one and it would have been included on the Dec 4th warrant. Anything less is simply a stall tactic.
Anthony J Fortunato November 29, 2012 at 07:20 PM
Am I missing something here or do Seniors currently have a program that defers their property taxes until the sale of the property? And this deferment is done at a very reasonable rate of 2%. Why are we benefitting one class of citizen at the burden of another relative to the value of their property. If the true reason is schools, why isn't every citizen w/o children in the school system afforded the same lower property tax consideration. This is bad legislation. I believe the current deferment process for Seniors is sufficient and should be continued. Sincerely, Anthony Fortunato
JON999 November 29, 2012 at 07:50 PM
I agree with Anthony. deferment is a good idea and solves current cash flow issues. a full reduction just puts money in the pocket of out-of-town heirs. once we start slicing/dicing the population, that's a slippery slope. why don't we just eliminate the schools portion of our taxes and instead charge tuition for each student? isn't that what we're saying with this bill? seniors were kids once and were once parents of school-aged children, too. finally, I don't know if you've heard but there is no asset test in the language. it's purely up to our better angels (the Tax Assessor) who gets this reduction and who doesn't. there isn't even any guidance as to what is considered "excessive assets" -- so it's not really a law, it's a checkbook with no oversight. and what a convoluted system, requiring yearly submissal of ALL material financial forms from hundreds of seniors. let me guess, the Assessor will need a few FTEs to help her sort this out every year....how much will that cost? town leaders are for this b/c they want/need the senior votes. not blaming them but judging it on merits, this bill is a bad idea.
ron darden November 29, 2012 at 08:01 PM
What is % of households with no children? Of that, what is % of of senior households? Of that, what is % of senior households who will qualify for exemption? What about senior households who have grown kids and their grandchildren living with them and going to school, would they be elibible?
joanne November 29, 2012 at 08:46 PM
spot on points JON999- after reading all the comments (minus a few) I am not feeling very good about this. When we purchased our home- we were unable to get the Assessor out to our properrty- (she did not have time)! 3/4 of our property is under water in the spring ( we have wetland plants overtaking our yard)yet we are not charged that way on our tax bill- instead we have been given the run around> Considering the way we have been treated I dont feel the Assessor can truly "assess" this new situation- Knowing how we have been treated- I have to vote No
Sudburytoo November 29, 2012 at 08:50 PM
I will vote no. I simply cannot trust the current people running the town to make good choices. I can just see it now. All the "insiders" will suddenly qualify and others will not. This law would need to be buttoned up better and more quantitative rather than qualitative.
David Levington November 29, 2012 at 09:13 PM
No changes have been made in the bill since Town Meeting approved it. The increase in taxes allowed hasn't changed. The amount of the benefit hasn't changed. The qualifications for receiving the benefit haven't changed. The manner or raising the funds hasn't changed. There were some changes in wording to satisfy the Department of Revenue and the town administrators, so that we can be sure this can be administered without holding up property tax bills. There were no changes that affect the payers of the tax or the recipients of the benefit. I understand why many of you are unhappy and/or dissatisfied with one or another part of our town/state/federal government; so am I. I hope you can look at this as a way you can, at pretty modest cost, help some of your neighbors whose burdens are higher than most of us. Dave Levington
pmotw November 29, 2012 at 09:17 PM
re: Mrs. Hullinger I heard Mr. O'Brien tried to change the 3-5 article after it was voted on to 3-2.
siobhan hullinger November 29, 2012 at 09:28 PM
Ok now THAT is funny! Thanks for the bit of humor today!
siobhan hullinger November 29, 2012 at 09:30 PM
Thanks for some of the clarification, Mr Levington, however, any changes to the bill constitutes a different bill and we should have the opportunity to discuss/ debate and vet the merits of new language regardless of who needed to be satisfied.
joanne November 29, 2012 at 09:31 PM
I do help my neighbors- but I have children- No one helps us! We dont make 175,000+! I want to help our seniors- but this is too fishy!
Sudburytoo November 29, 2012 at 09:40 PM
joanne, I agree. This reminds me of the "budget shuffle" that happened just before town meeting and nobody had any time to analyze or observe the multiple changes that were made to the warrant. History shows, these people should not be trusted at all.
Sudbury Citizen November 29, 2012 at 11:29 PM
Dave, I saw Mr. Stein at your dog and pony show. He made an excellent point. What about your neighbor who bought his house a few years ago ( under water ), lost his job, no income at all, but will be hit with a $ 500. tax increase. Do you want to pay his bill Dave. I thought so. This is a bad bill for 95% of the town. We can't afford it. Reverse mortgage Dave. Look it up, and apply for one.
ron darden November 30, 2012 at 01:18 AM
David Levington, I am dismayed at your selective answering of questions. How about answering these: 1) If the article passes will our tax bills reflect a distinct line item entry for the increase due to the program - eg simialr to the separate 3% Community Preservation surcharge, or will it be buried and become part of the new normal? 2) Is there an exact number as to how much this will cost the average taxpayer? 3) What is % of households with no children? 4) Of that, what is % of of senior households? 5) Of that, what is % of senior households who will qualify for exemption? 6) Would senior households be eligible who have grown kids and/or their grandchildren living with them and going to school? 7) Is it true seniors can get this discount and then defer taxes at 2% rate? 8) What % of Sudbury households are currently under water on their properties? Does not this article present an undo burden shift to perhaps many young couples who can least afford it? Seniors who bought long ago have siginificant appreciation, but any one who bought much after 2005 may be in a tight situation.
JJoseph November 30, 2012 at 01:30 AM
More of the same folks, When are the people going to wake up. This is an out of control train. Lets have an urgent meeting at Lavenders.
Sid Bourne November 30, 2012 at 08:48 PM
Dan: On this issue we disagree. This bill is not revenue neutral as advertized. Yes, the uncollected senior taxes would be transfered to others, but the burried collection and administrative costs, which will be significant, will come out of town coffers. Seniors in Sudbury already can defer property taxes through a town propgram. I'm for less government interference, keeping the taxation process simple and transparent. This bill violates that principle.

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