Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

December 19, 2013

Program explores charter school debate


The Andover Townsman

---- — Program explores charter school debate

Editor, Townsman:

The League of Women Voters of Andover/North Andover has produced a cable television program, “A Dialogue with Andover Public Schools and STEAM Studio Charter School,” that explores the STEAM vision and proposed curriculum for both Andover High School and STEAM Studio, as well as the financial impact of the proposed grade 9 through 12 charter school in Andover. Members of the Andover School Committee and STEAM Studio participated in this dialogue moderated by league member Bonnie Zahorik.

Our objective with this program is community education, and we encourage residents who are interested in the topic to view the one-hour program. It is available online at www.lwv-andovers.org and will also be playing on Andover‘s Comcast Channel 8 and Verizon Channel 47 at various times throughout the day starting on Friday, Dec. 20.

While the process of approving a charter school does not include a vote by the residents or Town Meeting, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is taking public input regarding STEAM Studio’s charter school application through Jan. 3. You can send input, either in support of or against the STEAM Studio charter, via email to charterschools@doe.mass.edu.

As part of its work to increase citizen understanding of major public policy issues, the league encourages dialogue and active involvement of our citizenry. We encourage community members who are interested in citizen education events to join the league. For information, email league@lwv-andovers.org .

Stefani Traina

Maureen Sundberg

League of Women Voters of Andover/North Andover

Steering Committee

Thanks for helpwith Kennedy remembrance

Editor, Townsman:

Heartfelt thanks to the Andover Townsman and The Eagle-Tribune for their interest in last month’s JFK remembrance program at Northern Essex Community College in Haverhill.

The pre-event articles by Judy Wakefield and Mark Vogler on Nov. 21 were very much appreciated, as well as the accompanying photographs by Tim Jean. Thanks also to the public officials who represent Haverhill at all levels of government, who took time out of their busy schedules to share their thoughts and memories of JFK at the opening ceremony. This includes Mayor James Fiorentini, state Reps. Diana DiZoglio, Lenny Mirra and Linda Dean Campbell; state Sen. Kathleen O’Connor Ives, Governor’s Councilor Eileen Duff and Kate Machet, staff member for U.S. Sen. Ed Markey, who graciously read the senator’s own words.

Thanks as well to the following for their participation and involvement in the JFK events: NECC President Lane Glenn, Professors Jim Murphy, Andrew Morse and Ligia Domenech; student Christopher Cox, guest speakers Frank O’Connor of Andover and Ron Martin of Lawrence, all of the student volunteers, members of the public and the college community who helped in any way; Lawrence Cable TV; Salem, N.H., Cable TV and WHAV Radio in Haverhill.

With so much competing television coverage of the 50th anniversary of the JFK assassination, it was both an honor and a pleasure to organize a remembrance program that was local, hands-on and personalized.

Richard Padova

High Street

Professor, Northern Essex Community College

Bloated town budgets the real problem

Editor, Townsman:

At the recent Tri-Board meeting, I pointed out that residential property taxes have increased 46 percent over the last 10 years. Affording these increases is not just a problem for the seniors on fixed incomes.

These taxes are paid from household incomes, which have not risen at the same rate. According to the U.S. Census statistics, Andover’s median income rose by 17.8 pecent. When property taxes are rising more than 2.5 times as fast as income used to pay the taxes, a crisis cannot be far behind. The town manager said that property taxes may have gone up 46 percent in 10 years, but that’s because property values have increased and the taxes are based on the property values.

According to the 2013 Annual Town Meeting Finance Committee Report, the average residential tax was $5,466 in fiscal 2003 and $7,967 in fiscal 2013 — an increase of 45.75 percent. During the same period, the average assessed value increased from $470,000 in fiscal 2003 to $549,070 in fiscal 2013 — an increase of only 16.8 percent. Taxes, meanwhile, grew 2 1/2 times faster than home values and they are projected to rise another 13 percent by fiscal 2016.

It’s clear that in years when assessed values declined, tax rates were increased to account for lost home value to increase the tax revenue by the Prop 2 1/2 statutory limit. In most years when home values increased, the tax rate decreased or increased slightly, again to increase tax revenue within the statutory limit. Therefore, tax increases are not based on home values, but rather on the town’s budget requirements as determined by Proposition 2 1/2.

What can we learn from this? First, real estate taxes are not based on your home’s value, as most people think, but on the budget increase allowed by Proposition 2 1/2. Second, your taxes will increase every year as long as the town officials feel they are “entitled” to use the full tax levy. Third, this will not change unless the taxpayers and town officials introduce controls on spending with significant changes in the way the town conducts its business. Fourth, debt exclusions are a problem, but bloated town budgets are a larger problem. During the last 10 years, taxes from debt exclusions (overrides) decrease by 35 percent while taxes due to town operations increased by 50 percent under Proposition 2 1/2 from $5,211 per home to $7,800 per home.

Gregory Rigby

131 Rattlesnake Hill Road