February 5, 2013
In response to previous messages regarding Chelmsford’s excessive tax increases, residents pointed out some additional telling statistics.
Over the past decade, wages have risen around 30% while Chelmsford’s property taxes have risen by some 50%.
And over the past 22 years, The Consumer Price Index has been 2.75%/year. The average annual Chelmsford homeowner’s tax growth over that same period has been over 4.5%/year.
Of course, the response of certain town officials has been quite different than the perceptive analysis of ordinary residents. Far from expressing concern that Chelmsford's tax rates were already high and are rising fast, they’ve messaged that I’m “ignorant” and “lazy” and my favorite, “Oh Cheese whiz, if you only understood rudimentary finance.” Yes, that’s the level of discourse we get from our top officials in Chelmsford.
I will point out that before publishing any information about tax rates, I went to Town Hall to find out why taxes went up so much more than officials had previously announced. It turns out that our highest officials made unwarranted assumptions about the stability of commercial property values instead of checking carefully with the professionals who perform the valuations to see what was happening. Turns out that commercial property values were plummeting by another 5% over the previous year. So instead of cutting costs, they blithely set a tax rate that once again has homeowners shouldering a hike way above the expected hike which was originally announced.
The underlying culprits are overspending and bad public policy. High taxes reflect the costs of lack of oversight. They reflect the costs of corrupt decision making. They reflect the costs of arrogance and indifference to the concerns of ordinary residents. They reflect parlor-game politics instead of careful analysis of government operations.
There are still more open seats for Town Meeting rep than there are candidates in many precincts. If candidates do not step forward, self-interested opportunists will be able to slide in with a few write-in votes. There is still time to pull nomination papers at Town Hall. It should take just a couple of hours to obtain the necessary 25 signatures from your friends and neighbors. The papers don’t have to be returned until next Tuesday, February 12, so there’s still plenty of time. If you can’t run, encourage someone you know. I will infuriate certain self-aggrandizing officials by pointing out that it is not difficult to be a Town Meeting rep. All that is needed to stem the tide of self-interest and cronyism are good intentions. We only need to flip about one seat per precinct to overcome the current slim majority of willing and compliant instruments of entrenched power. It can be done. Let’s do it.
Roland Van Liew