Last week, I attended a Norton selectmen's meeting called to preliminarily discuss the upcoming budget process. It turned out officials were not prepared to discuss anything substantial, bringing into question why they bothered to hold said gathering in the first place.

But during the meeting, some citizens who had turned out to participate shared some thoughts on things to consider as Norton contemplates whether to attempt a new tax increase effort via an override of the state's tax-limiting law Proposition 2 1/2. They were sincere and earnest in what they said, although there was nothing particularly new brought forth.

Still, one thing said by a fellow citizen-taxpayer jolted me a bit as I listened.

This individual said he had the answer to the problem of rising property taxes in town.

It's simple, he concluded. Just have more adult (over 55 type) developments in Norton. In that demographic, people don't have kids, and thus don't drive up the cost of schools and education.

That just seems so sad. The "fewer kids" part, I mean.

It's not unusual to advance the argument of keeping school enrollments contained to keep the budget down. But it struck me children these days are being singled out as the problem, rather than the solution. And, I wondered if that is what the future holds for our local cities and towns.

Let's agree to a small set of indisputable facts to frame this eternal debate.

First, young families with kids cost municipalities more money than older couples living alone. There's no doubt about it. Even aside from the educational aspect (which is significant), the draw on services is more. Seniors may require more ambulance and emergency medical attention, but families with children undoubtedly use more overall services.

And, it is difficult for seniors on fixed incomes to remain in their homes. The taxes play a part in that, though they certainly are not the only factor. But that is nothing new. Senior citizens and tax bills have been mortal enemies throughout time, no doubt commencing when the first tax bill was given to the first elderly property owner.

Good government is all about trying to strike the delicate balance between ensuring the future of the young, while honoring the past and present of those who have gone before them. It is popular to say government should really have no role in that, but it does.

No community should be judged solely on how it treats either group of people, but rather how it brings them together. If we do it right in this life, we start out in the first group, and slowly transition to the second. Both have a vested interest in helping each other.

Now, the person who made this statement clearly had no ill will toward children or families. He was merely trying to highlight the position of those who in many cases worked most of their lives only to struggle to make ends meet in the latter stages.

He believes - and I agree - that they should receive help in doing so.

But, do we really want to create communities where children are considered a liability? Does that really help anybody?

You never see people protesting when plans are announced to build senior developments. That is almost always considered the right thing to do, and a positive step for a city or town.

But, when two- or three-bedroom apartments are proposed, we rightfully voice concern over the increased cost to educate the children who will grow up in them. We worry about having to fund recreation programs for them, or build athletic fields, or build new schools.

Maybe we think too much about what those kids and families need from us, and not enough about what they provide to us.

It is not good to have a community where those who retire cannot afford to live. But, it is equally bad to have a community where families are discouraged and viewed as unaffordable.

We don't make our hometowns better by having fewer kids or more senior citizens. We make it better by working together to find a way to help both grow and prosper.

Neither kids nor older folks like me are the problem. We are both - in fact - the solution.

Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and longtime local official. He can be emailed at and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.