Yes, folks, we find ourselves paying the highest property taxes in the entire region, according to a recently compiled comparison of rates. A table based on that information appears below, and can also be referenced online here.
You can see from the table that Chelmsford leads by a wide margin; property taxes are some 10% higher than the next highest communities, and 60%-70% higher than many others.
Chelmsford’s property taxes are 11% higher than Westford; 16% higher than Tewksbury; 24% higher than Andover; 31% higher than North Andover; 32% higher than Wilmington; 51% higher than Burlington.
You might very well wonder why our selectmen characterize the Town Manager as a “financial whiz,” a “superstar,” and a “franchise player.” I certainly do. The Town Manager’s incompetence and corrupt decision making are demonstrably a major factor in a decade of excessive tax hikes. But the BOS is ultimately accountable – they are the ones who re-hire the Town Manager and fail to provide proper oversight and cost controls.
As an example, it would be easy for the BOS to require that the Town Manager report no-bid contracts and amounts for services provided to the Town. But they don’t. Instead, selectman Jon Kurland has simply claimed such contracts don’t exist. That may seem like a paradox, but perhaps selectman Kurland is referring to the fact that it is written work orders that don’t exist.
That’s right, in sworn testimony to Superior Court, the Town Manager claims that no contract writings exist for no-bid contracts (used for paving, tree pruning which occasionally might turn into logging, building maintenance, etc). In other words, neither the DPW nor the Town Manager have issued a single e-mail or other written instructions to the contractors they hire to do things like paint lines on scenic roads, clear cut at Parker Middle School, etc. for the past three years. (That’s the time frame we asked about in the court case.)
Not a single written work order or purchase order. In three years.
The Town Manager has refused to provide information on how much is spent on no-bid contracts, citing that it “is not required by law.” So it’s hard to even get a handle on exactly how much money is wasted. It’s clear that the policy is to NOT provide any written trail at all that might document work instructions. The checks just go out for services, but there’s no way for us as residents to match up the payments with specific work orders. The work orders don’t exist, according to the Town Manager.
Do you think that your place of work would pay contractors for invoices that do not have corresponding purchase requisitions or work orders? According to the selectmen and the Town Manager, that is precisely what the Town does.
Where’s the accountability in that? Where’s the transparency?
Where’s the common sense?
There is still plenty of time to pull papers to run for Town Meeting Rep in your precinct. We need challengers in every precinct to be on the ballot and give voters the choice to elect reps who will vote for transparency and accountability at Town Meeting! The last day to obtain nomination papers is Friday, Feb. 8, 2013 at 5 p.m. The deadline to return signatures is Tuesday, Feb. 12. Whether or not you run, please mark your calendar to VOTE for challengers on April 2.
Roland Van Liew