Monday, March 12, 2012
With that commitment however comes a responsibility to recognize that individuals with different viewpoints or values are no less accurate in the information they offer than those they differ with. In fact, to lay sole claim to the mantle of “clarifying misinformation” as it relates to the comments made by these elected officials, may itself necessitate clarification. For example, the reference to Selectman Mary Dowling’s statement that revocation of the CPA would “paralyze the town from spending on future projects” was void of an important component of that statement, in that she subsequently said “without the benefit of matching funds from the state”. To suggest as the writers did that she was indicating that revocation of the CPA would prevent us from future spending is inaccurate.
Additionally, the writers call out Selectman Dowling for referring to the State’s match as a “grant” rather than specifically qualifying those funds as coming from taxpayers. Are the writers suggesting that Selectman Dowling was attempting to mislead residents? One would hope not as it was surely not the case. Clearly, every dime we receive from State government comes from either taxes, fees, or some other type of assessment on residents. Thus whether one refers to the State’s portion of the CPA as “matching funds”, “grants”, or the “State’s share”, one is fairly certain that residents are astute enough to realize its origin. To that end, Selectman Dowling’s comments were in no way misleading, nor inaccurate.
The writers then suggest that Selectman Mary Blanchard was inaccurate when she stated that some residents are under the impression that their taxes will go down immediately if the CPA is revoked. Selectman Blanchard’s comments were quite accurate as I too have heard this from residents and stated as much that evening. Oddly, there was no reference whatsoever my comments or my position. For the writers to emphatically state as they did that “residents are well aware that the 3 percent surcharge on their tax bills will remain until 2030” is inconsistent with the number of questions I’ve received specific to same. Thus, Selectman Blanchard’s comments were very accurate.
In terms of the writers’ contention that revoking the CPA “will help to control spending”, one would have to inquire as to how they’ve arrived at that assessment. Spending is controlled solely by the voters at Town Meeting. No board or committee has any authority to spend locally raised revenues and therefore, with or without the CPA, projects will still come forward and if approved - as has been the case over the years – it will simply mean that the entire burden will now fall upon the taxpayers as opposed to a small share of it. If residents want to “control spending”, the manner by which to do so is through attendance at Town Meeting and voting NO on projects. The CPA isn’t responsible for the $50 million dollars we’ve spent over the past 5 years; it represents only 8% of that debt. Nor is the CPA responsible for our educational budget representing nearly 60% or our total tax burden. Revoking the CPA to “control spending” is akin to placing a band-aid on a hemorrhaging wound, it just redirects the flow.
The writers then call into question comments made by Selectman Priscilla Gimas as she referenced information she received directly from the Town of Northampton. Selectman Gimas shared and restated information as it had been provided to her from local officials. She then followed with additional information at our very next meeting, which further defined the fact that the CPA component is ONE aspect of an overall rating, as are many other factors as it involves money. She stressed that the CPA revocation COULD have a negative impact, not WOULD, as again, it’s one component. To that end, she did “explain what ramifications” could manifest when coupled with other influencing factors. Additionally the writers challenge Selectman Gimas’ statement that residents pay "$50 a year" for the CPA surcharge - so as to suggest that her comment was definitive for all. It clearly was not, as she was using an example. Perhaps some residents may – as the writers state – “pay as much as $300 a year”, but that’s based upon a tax bill for a home assessed at $700,000, just as some residents pay $16 annually based upon their home’s tax assessment. Click HERE for examples of what a specific home on a specific street is paying based upon their specific assessment, or see chart to the right.
It’s understandable that we don’t always hear the complete context of what an individual says, nor for that matter, do human beings always fully say everything they intended to say. To suggest however that any of these three selectmen were providing misinformation is simply inaccurate and misleading. To that end, I felt obligated to clarify some misconceptions, knowing that the individuals who penned the letter in question – both honorable and committed residents – most likely did not fully understand all that was said that evening. This can be an emotional subject, and emotions can often serve as an unintended filter.
Thomas R. Creamer,
Chairman, Sturbridge Board of Selectmen