Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

Opinion

February 6, 2014

Time to get serious on town spending

One thing is becoming quite clear in Andover these days. It appears taxpayers have reached their tipping point.

The town’s older residents have not hid the fact that escalating tax bills are making it harder for them to be able to live out their lives in Andover in the comforts of their own homes.

But a Town Meeting article really calls attention to how severe the problem has become, at least for some. The article, submitted by citizen petition, seeks to freeze property taxes for qualifying residents 70 and older until their property is transferred or sold.

Among its provisions, the article says the town “... shall not, during any fiscal year, increase the rate of taxation on any real property at a percentage greater than the percentage of any Social Security cost-of-living adjustment for that fiscal year.”

The state already offers tax exemptions for income-eligible seniors with financial needs as well as disabled veterans, the blind and others facing hardships.

However, we’re not entirely sure a tax freeze for the elderly is the right answer. Such a measure would open the door for other groups to argue for similar treatment, and it would be difficult for any community to support extending relief to whole segments of the population.

But what we hope the request does do is send a message to the town’s leaders that spending must be brought back under control. Town Manager Buzz Stapczynski has said in recent weeks he is pulling back on major projects in the coming fiscal year to reduce the impact on taxes. We hope townspeople hold him to that.

That won’t, however, stop the countless projects already in progress. It also does not put an end to existing and future needs.

What may be more realistic is for the town to take a hard look at priorities and get serious about expenses it can control. Expectations must also be adjusted to come in line with reality.

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