Dear Watertown Friends and Neighbors,
Watertown is a well-run Town which is financially on stable ground with a 130 MILLION DOLLAR ANNUAL BUDGET to operate the 4.2 square miles which we call home. In the past decade we have built, or renovated, most our public buildings including the Police, Fire, DPW and Library. Our bond rating is among the best in the State of Massachusetts which allows our Town to borrow money at the lowest interest rates available. There is a lot to be happy about from a fiscal viewpoint and I applaud the elected officials and Town Employees who are responsible for that outcome.
Unfortunately, proponents of the CPA, including five of our Town Councilors (Palomba, Dushku, Feltner, Falkoff and Woodland) don’t think that is good enough. THEY WANT MORE AND THE WAY THEY ARE GOING TO DO IT IS BY RAISING YOUR PROPERTY TAX. Why not add a surcharge of 2% to everyone’s property tax bill because we can raise another TWO MILLION dollars per year to spend. BUT THERE’S ALWAYS A CATCH IN POLITICS WHICH REMINDS ME OF MAKING SAUSAGE. (i.e. you might like to eat it, but don’t ask how its made!) The catch in this case is that the CPA Funds can only be spent on three items, i.e. open space and recreation, affordable housing and historical preservation. What’s wrong with that you might ask? No one would dispute that these are worthy causes and need to be funded.
Here’s what the Proponents of the CPA don’t tell you:
1. The aforementioned items that the CPA funds are already in the Town Budget. The last time I checked we have a great Recreation Department run by Director Pete Centola and his staff. Historical Preservation is a line budget item. And Open Space begs the question of what open space? Affordable Housing has just been very loudly addressed by the Town Government when they voted to raise the number of affordable housing units mandated for new development from 10% to 15%. Let’s also note that the 15% mandate is among the highest numbers in the state to support affordable housing.
2. Proponents argue that 161 other communities in Massachusetts have approved the CPA. They don’t tell you that 190 communities have NOT APPROVED THE CPA.
3. Proponents argue that we are missing out on State Matching Funds. They don’t tell you that the matching funds are have gone down almost yearly. In 2005 the match was dollar for dollar. Last year the match was in the twenty-something percent range. They also don’t tell you that if Boston and/or Worcester approve the CPA then the matching funds will drop like a rock (again).
4. Proponents state that you are missing out on getting money that you paid to the matching fund trust. Well, that one is only half true. You only paid into the trust fund if you sold a home. If you didn’t sell a home then you paid nothing. The funds come from fees paid to the Registry of Deeds. And by the way, the way the Proponents, including Councilors Palomba, Dushku, Feltner, Falkoff and Woodland, propose that we access those funds is that YOU HAVE TO PAY A TAX TO GET THEM. Does that sound like free money?
5. A few weeks ago one of the aforementioned Town Councilors told me that, (quote) “THE CPA TAX IS NOT A TAX, IT’S A SURCHARGE.” That certainly made me feel better, but then I looked up the definition of a “Surcharge” which summed it up. A Surcharge is defined as “an excessive sum or price charged, an additional charge or tax.”
6. Another Town Councilor told me that housing prices in Watertown are too high which again we all can all agree with. However, what I found stunning was that said Councilor stated emphatically that the Town Council could lower housing prices through changes in local ordinances. Really? That is not reality, but I offered said Councilor some free legal advice. If anyone wants to permanently restrict the value of their property then they can place a deed restriction on it at the registry of deeds. To no surprise that offer was not accepted, (yet).
7. RED FLAG. Why are firms from Newton and California so involved in a Watertown Vote? The FACT, as announced this week by the Watertown Assessors Office, is that Watertown Property Taxes are projected to go up again this year. Before adding an additional 2% CPA TAX, property rates are expected to go up 5.92% (residential) and 9.88% (commercial). Last year property taxes went up between $800-$1000 on two family houses in Watertown. Adding an additional CPA TAX on top of the expected tax increase is a TAX ON A TAX and does nothing to make Watertown more affordable for anyone.
Yes, let’s fund Affordable Housing, Historical Preservation and Open Space/Recreation and let’s do it with our existing 130 Million Dollar Annual Town Budget. Every line item in our Town Budget could use an extra 2%. PLEASE JOIN ME AND VOTE NO ON QUESTION 5. While you’re at it you might mention to your Town Councilors that want to increase your taxes, “Thanks, but no thanks!” (By the way, did you know that the Town Council can vote to raise the CPA Tax to 3%? Neither did I until yesterday.)