Opinion: Protect Our Town Employees and Seniors With A ‘Yes’ Vote On The Override

Photo: A vote to pass the override will ensure seniors and town employees are protected

ln his guest column in a local publication dated Feb. 18, “Please Join Me ln Voting ‘Yes,” former Selectman Ralph Jones suggests ways of reducing town expenses including asking town employees to help pay for them. He wrote “reducing compensation through union negotiations would depend on the expiration dates of existing contracts.”

ls it fair or appropriate for Jones, or any elected official or administrator in town including the Select Board or the town administrator, to expect town employees, through a reduction in compensation or benefits, to help pay for the ongoing increases in town expenses?

Residents, administrators and elected officials regularly advocate for new services and facilities but we are reluctant to pay for them and are dismayed when we receive our new real estate tax bills. We, as a town voted, through our town meeting members, for an expensive new high and middle school. Now we have to pay for it.

Regarding additional school services, Jones writes “increasingly, schools also are not simply educating students, they are also caring for their social and emotional needs. This expands the type of employees that must be part of the school system.” I agree with him and will be voting for the override in April.

As residents, we Belmontians want excellent services and top flight facilities and we have them. We want our schools to be among the best in the state. As taxpayers many of us are shocked and angry at how expensive our excellent quality of life costs us.

The town has a limited commercial tax base so we residential taxpayers have to rely on ourselves to fund the facilities and services we choose to have. Going forward, I see overrides every several years as an uncomfortable but routine aspect of living here.

For years there has been talk of helping seniors, who may be having trouble paying their real estate taxes, stay in their homes but I’m not aware of any follow through regarding this issue. ln order for overrides to be successful I believe this issue needs to be effectively addressed.

Our town employees are an integral and valued part of our community. They contribute to our quality of life in ways we often do not notice. I’m in favor of the police and fire department employees keeping their Civil Service protections and of fair compensation and benefits for all town employees.

Dick Madden
Retired Town Meeting Member
Pleasant Street

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Comments

  1. Mamou says

    Exactly how will the override “protect seniors” as the headline states. I can’t see how it does. It effectively squeezes seniors on limited incomes. The override is pitting financially strapped seniors against two-income young families who want all the bells and whistles. This is a time for need vs. want.

  2. Mary Lewis says

    There are numerous state and local relief programs for seniors (and some qualified others) who are struggling to stay in their homes. There are exemptions for qualified seniors, veterans, persons with certain disabilities, and there are also tax deferments, as well as payment plans.

    See here or give the assessors a call at (617) 993-2630
    https://www.belmont-ma.gov/assessors-office/pages/real-estate-and-cpa-exemptions

    In addition, there may be mortgage, property tax, or insurance relief via the American Rescue Plan for qualified individuals struggling to stay in their homes. There is also a large rental relief package that accompanies this legislation.

    • Andrea Masciari says

      In order to qualify for any of these programs, people must meet low income requirements. Just because someone can’t afford a $15,000 property tax bill does not mean they are low-income. Therefore, many people will never qualify for any of the programs meant for low-income seniors

      • Mary Lewis says

        I suppose it depends on one’s definition of low income. Seniors may defer taxes until they sell their home if their income does not exceed $61,400. Since their house is likely to gain considerably in value, this is not a bad deal for many people.

        Exemptions require proof of a significantly lower income than that.

        Veterans may qualify for different degrees of exemption regardless of income.

        It’s true that it may not solve everyone’s issues, but the programs are not as limited as suggested above.

        Belmont residents may read the brochures for themselves here:
        https://www.belmont-ma.gov/assessors-office/pages/real-estate-and-cpa-exemptions

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