AN INSIDE LOOK - Commentary and opinions on local politics and life in general in Southeastern Massachusetts! Featuring the writings of Bill Gouveia, newspaper columnist for the Sun Chronicle and local cable TV talk show host. Feel free to read, comment and enjoy!
Friday, March 6, 2015
North Attleboro Override is Unfair
This column originally appeared in The Sun Chronicle on Friday, March 6, 2015.
AN INSIDE LOOK
By Bill Gouveia
Attleboro officials are asking voters for a $4 million tax increase.If approved the additional tax revenue will
be used to maintain service levels in many departments including police, fire,
public works, and of course the school department.It is meant to help the town as a whole.
make no mistake, this is a school override.It is designed to lessen the financial burden of those who have children
in the school system at the expense of those who do not.
is not a popular way to phrase this. The description will no doubt anger many.But it is accurate, and has been deliberately
structured that way.
and school officials have agreed if the override passes, fees to school parents
for busing and parking will be eliminated.The fee for riding the school bus is currently $300 per student, with a
cap of $600 per family.
officials estimate the override will result in raising taxes on a home assessed
at $350,000 by $250 next year.It would
increase another $125 in the second year, and yet another $48 in the
third.That is $423 over three years,
and then that $423 remains every year after.
a family with two children currently paying bus fees, living in a $350,000
home, saves about $750 over the first three years if the tax increase passes.That savings for them will be made up largely
from the pockets of taxpayers without school children, who will continue to
cover that loss of fees every year going forward.
Now it can
and has been properly argued that fees were unfair in the first place.Charging for busing, parking, and other
activities places a heavy burden on parents and families.It goes against the general philosophy of
public education.If the tax increase
fails, officials will raise fees for activities like sports by an additional
$350, adding to the financial crunch on parents.
officials are saying if the tax increase fails, they will close a school.Athletics will be eliminated from the budget.The system will be decimated.
If all that
is true, how can they justify eliminating fees?How tough can things be if they are actually
allowing some select folks to pay less?
increase is a tough sell.The town’s own
survey shows parents with kids in school are the group most likely to vote in
favor.Officials believe there is no
chance of passage unless “school people” have an overwhelming reason to support
So they are
trying to buy those needed votes by dangling the fees as a carrot.One of the school committee members actually
used that analogy earlier.
Selectman Patrick Reynolds was just candidate Reynolds, he had this to say
about increasing taxes:"Before we
talk about overrides, we need to look at how government is spending money. The
key is to spend smarter, not spend more.”
Now that he
is in office, he has changed.Recently
he said:“Voters have a choice to make,
and it’s a simple choice.They can
choose to increase their taxes and keep the services the way they are now, or
they can choose to save their money and say that they’re okay with losing some
of their services.”He added that he
believed the override “is the most fiscally responsible thing we can do.”
that whole “spend smarter” thing just didn’t work out.
financial needs are very real.The
services in question are valuable.But
the way this tax increase is structured is patently unfair, obviously biased,
and overly political.
schools are in need of additional funding (and they are), they should not be
eliminating fees.More than anything, a
tax increase must be fair to as many as possible.This one doesn’t come close.
additional taxes would benefit much more than just schools.It is reasonable to take into consideration
that school parents picked up much of the revenue burden through fees over the
last several years.
very idea of totally eliminating some fees when your financial need is greater
than ever makes no sense.Unless – of
course – you are trying to sell a tax increase that wouldn’t pass otherwise.
just might work.
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and
longtime local official.He can be
emailed at email@example.com and followed on Twitter at