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Thread: Selectmen's Forum On How We Define Ourselves

  1. #1
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    Smile Selectmen's Forum On How We Define Ourselves

    I gather from your notice regarding Wednesday night's gathering that the Selectmen are trying to identify how to define the essence of Wayland. As Wayland is assuming the status of the community paying the state's highest property taxes, and as that is rapidly becoming our most recognized attribute, particularly to the real estate market, perhaps one of the following could serve as our new town slogan:

    Wayland: #1 in Taxachusetts
    Wayland: The Buck Stops Here!
    Wayland: Flood Zone for Deep Pockets
    Wayland: Our Favorite Money Pit!
    Wayland: If You Lived Here, You'd Be Broke By Now
    Wayland: On the Fast Track to the Poor House

    or my favorite:

    Wayland: Poverty Loves Company


    Maybe my fellow readers of Wayland eNews could add to the list in assistance of our Selectmen.


    Steven M. Glovsky
    Shaw Drive

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    Quote Originally Posted by Steven M. Glovsky View Post
    As Wayland is assuming the status of the community paying the state's highest property taxes, and as that is rapidly becoming our most recognized attribute, ...
    With all due respect, Mr. Glovsky might consider doing a bit of research before so cavalierly tossing around inflammatory statements such as the one above. Since 1989 (which is as far back as the MA Department of Revenue reports data), Wayland's rank in average tax bill has been as follows: 10, 8, 6, 5, 6, 6, 6, 6, 5, 5, 5, 5, 7, 7, 8, 8, 8, 8, 8, 7, 7, 7, 6. Note that the most recent rank (2010) was $43 above Concord in 7th. That trend hardly reflects a change in "status."

    We can't look at expenses in a vacuum, of course. Wayland ranks 7th in per capita income and median household income (US Census). Roughly speaking, Wayland spends in line with its means. I'm in no way minimizing the economic difficulties faced by Wayland residents, which are no different than those in the rest of the Commonwealth and across the nation. As we address this and other problems, however, it's important to do so with the facts.

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    Default Hiding From Reality As Usual

    It has been widely reported in the press that Wayland will be rising to the rank of highest tax paying community this year as our tax bills begin to reflect the cost of the new High School. Search "Wayland property taxes" and you'll see Wayland's taxes branded out-of-line with our neighbors by folks who decided not to purchase a new home here because of our taxes. It is longtime past when we should be misled by statements such as those of Mr. Dieffenbach into going along with a situation that is hurting us all. A few years back, just before this current financial crisis, Mr. Dieffenbach and the School Committee insisted that cutting the school budget in other places by 5% to save Loker School would force the elimination of art and music programs in all our schools. When the financial crisis hit, larger budget cuts were made without any such impact on our school programs. Closing Loker as a neighborhood elementary school was and remains a serious mistake to the quality of Wayland life and its attractiveness to families - parents choose a town for their babies not their high schoolers . The citizens of Wayland, now more than ever, need to move past Mr. Dieffenbach's continued efforts to cover over a circumstance of real concern for the long-term welfare of our community. IT'S NO JOKE!
    Last edited by Steven M. Glovsky; 09-28-2010 at 09:11 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Steven M. Glovsky View Post
    It has been widely reported in the press that Wayland will be rising to the rank of highest tax paying community this year as our tax bills begin to reflect the cost of the new High School.
    That can't possibly be. Wayland's average tax bill for 2010 was $10,982. I don't recall the exact number, but my recollection is that at its peak, the high school will add on the order of $500 to the average tax bill. That would move Wayland from 6th to 5th, and certainly not close to Sherborn's $12,626 (2nd) or Weston's $15,542 (1st).

    Quote Originally Posted by Steven M. Glovsky View Post
    It is longtime past when we should be misled by statements such as those of Mr. Diefenbach into going along with a situation that is hurting us all. A few years back, just before this current financial crisis, Mr. Diefenbach and the School Committee insisted that cutting the school budget in other places by 5% to save Loker School would force the elimination of art and music programs in all our schools. When the financial crisis hit, larger budget cuts were made without any such impact on our school programs.
    When were school budget cuts larger than 5%? The largest budget reduction that I'm aware of was the 1.7% decrease in FY11 vs. FY10, and that was in part enrollment driven.

    Quote Originally Posted by Steven M. Glovsky View Post
    Closing Loker as a neighborhood elementary school was and remains a serious mistake to the quality of Wayland life and its attractiveness to families - parents choose a town for their babies not their high schoolers . The citizens of Wayland, now more than ever, need to move past Mr. Diefenbach's continued efforts to cover over a circumstance of real concern for the long-term welfare of our community. IT'S NO JOKE!
    I'm not sure what "circumstance" I'm "covering over." Are you suggesting that the data that I cited are in error?

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    Default Blinded To Reality

    Ask a real estate broker about the impact of Wayland's real estate taxes on the marketability of Wayland properties. Read the next newspaper article in the paper reporting on Wayland properties' poor sales performance compared to our neighbors in this market. Can everyone else's analysis of Wayland's situation be wrong? Reality bites Mr. Dieffenbach!

















    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    That can't possibly be. Wayland's average tax bill for 2010 was $10,982. I don't recall the exact number, but my recollection is that at its peak, the high school will add on the order of $500 to the average tax bill. That would move Wayland from 6th to 5th, and certainly not close to Sherborn's $12,626 (2nd) or Weston's $15,542 (1st).



    When were school budget cuts larger than 5%? The largest budget reduction that I'm aware of was the 1.7% decrease in FY11 vs. FY10, and that was in part enrollment driven.



    I'm not sure what "circumstance" I'm "covering over." Are you suggesting that the data that I cited are in error?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Steven M. Glovsky View Post
    Ask a real estate broker about the impact of Wayland's real estate taxes on the marketability of Wayland properties. Read the next newspaper article in the paper reporting on Wayland properties' poor sales performance compared to our neighbors in this market. Can everyone else's analysis of Wayland's situation be wrong? Reality bites Mr. Dieffenbach!
    I'm not disputing that the Wayland real estate market is tight. My point continues to be that hyperbolic statements unsupported by the facts don't help the conversation. Wayland's income and average tax bill rank against other Commonwealth towns remain where they have been for more than two decades, your assertion to the contrary notwithstanding.
    Last edited by Jeff Dieffenbach; 09-28-2010 at 09:11 AM. Reason: Corrected typos.

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    Leave it to an MIT grad to rely on numbers rather than what he sees before him!

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    Leave it to a Harvard grad to discount evidence and see the world the way he wants to see it. [grin]

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    [grin back] And now let the "elite" (that's both of us) take a rest.

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    Who won? The guy who thinks we should have no taxes but still be a great place to live? Aren't republicans fun to watch? [grin from the Columbia graduate]

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    Default The Tax Facts

    From today's WVN newsletter...

    In fiscal year 2010 Wayland gained the dubious honor of having the second highest tax rate for single family homes in eastern Massachusetts, narrowly missing ranking number three. In 2009, Wayland ranked fifth, according to figures from the Department of Revenue. See
    http://www.mass.gov/?pageID=dortermi...bill&csid=Ador

    For the eastern portion of the state in FY 10, Sharon had the highest tax rate, at $17.92 per thousand dollars of assessed value, followed by Wayland at $17.78, followed closely by Amesbury at $17.77. Bolton's rate was $17.61 and Sherborn's was $17.44.

    Tax rates are determined by a number of factors, including the total assessed value in a town, and a town's budget (including state aid). The only element within the town's control is the budget, which includes additional or expiring debt, overrides, the outcome of collective bargaining for new union contracts, and annual budget allocations. The assessed value in a town is based on prior sales. For example, calendar year 2009 sales are analyzed for fiscal year 2011 assessments.

    From FY 2009 to FY2010, the average value of homes in Wayland declined by 4.64 percent, roughly in line with the state average, and in 2009 the town voted for an FY 10 debt exemption, primarily to cover the initial debt of $10 million for the $71 million high school. The interest payments are scheduled to increase in coming years.

    As a result of both of these factors, Wayland's tax rate jumped a sizable 8.61 percent from FY09's 16.37 to 17.78. When residents are faced with approving future budget increases, they should be aware the town's tax rate is already among the highest in the state.

    Why is this important? Prospective residents often look not only at the current taxes for a particular home, but also the tax rate in the town before deciding where to buy. If a town is less popular, the home prices may trend downwards, and as a result, the tax rate has to rise to meet the budget allowed under Prop. 2.5 not to mention any override.

    Statewide, the average value of single family property declined 4.61 percent between FY 09 and 10. Since FY2007 throughout the state, single family property has lost an average of 8.1 percent in value, according to the DOR, a far cry from the halcyon days of 2001-2005 when the average single family property value was increasing annually at double-digit percentage rates.

    Among the nine towns statewide with the highest average tax bills in both FY 09 and 10, Wayland is notable for a high average tax bill and ranks significantly lower in average assessed value. The towns with the highest average tax bills are in descending order: Weston, Sherborn, Dover, Lincoln, Carlisle, Wayland, Concord and Wellesley. "Their rankings by (average) assessed values are Weston (2), Sherborn (21), Dover (7), Lincoln (9), Carlisle (14), Wayland (31), Concord (13) and Wellesley (10)."

    While the Board of Selectmen attribute the high tax rate to a lack of commercial property in town, one may ask if Wayland is living beyond its means.

    Is additional commercial development the answer? For example, the site of the future Twenty Wayland Town Center development, formerly Raytheon, brings in approximately $415,000 in taxes. Even if Wayland had room for, and could attract enough businesses to pay the same amount in taxes, that would reduce the average tax bill of 4,546 single family homes and condos by less than $100. That is most likely not enough to change Wayland's tax rate ranking among other towns.

    If the Town Center were fully built to 370,000 square feet, which is not in the developer's near-term plans, the additional tax revenue would mean a contribution of less than1 percent of the $60 million budget, or less than a $100 reduction on a tax bill of $10,000. Higher taxes as a result of borrowing for the high school would more than wipe out that saving.

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    While I agree that tax RATE has an impact on perceived desirability of real estate, it should be a secondary consideration behind tax BILL.

    Put another way, the residents of our peer west suburban communities want more or less the same services (granted, most don't have free bus service for all students the way that Weston does), and have more or less the same residential/commercial tax bases (to be sure, Wayland is relatively far towards the residential end of the spectrum). Because these services have similar costs (driven primarily by salaries in a common market), we need to pay more or less the same tax bill.

    This should go without saying, but if homes and lots in one town are bigger and better than those in another town, they will have a higher assessed value. As a result, they can have a lower tax rate to yield the same tax bill.

    Wayland has long opted for high quality education and other municipal services despite having less expensive homes. As a result, it's been easier to buy in Wayland than in Weston, for example, and that's a good thing. We can pay less for a house and the same in the way of taxes, such that the quality of our civic life matches that of pricier towns without the same high cost of entry.

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    I meant to add: as such, by focusing disproportionately on tax RATE at the expense of tax BILL, WVN gets the story at best half right.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    I meant to add: as such, by focusing disproportionately on tax RATE at the expense of tax BILL, WVN gets the story at best half right.
    Yes, but the tax bill is still a problem. People look at the home they buy and realize they are paying a very high dollar amount for the assessed value. Then the argument becomes are we getting our money's worth? This is a point where people could differ. I believe the original point made by Mr. Glovsky is that we are not. Mr. Dieffenbach (and I imagine Mr. Rosenblatt, although I don't want to put words into his mouth) assert we are.

    From my point of view, I would say we are and we are not. In general, I am satisfied with the level of service we get in Wayland. We're safe, we're clean, and we're well educated for tax dollars paid. We certainly could be leaner in certain areas, and by being leaner, could be signifcantly better off than we are. The most specific example I'd cite is the bloat in school administration that could be reapplied to having the excellent elementary level experience we once enjoyed. Count me in the group that would happily sacrifice administrative salary for smaller classrooms. I'm positive we could examine the budget and point to areas where we could be leaner and either reapply or NOT SPEND the savings.

    I will say that we need to, more than ever, begin to be realistic about living within our means. I would hope our elected officials would be astute enough to realize that a 2.5% override this Spring is a terrible idea. In fact, other than utility increases and similar type expenses that are being charged to the town, I think a town-wide spending freeze (including salaries) would be a wise course of action.

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    Jeff B., I'd be interested in your specific thoughts on what administrative "bloat" you'd remove. What sort of administrative salary cuts would you make? What positions would you eliminate? It would be helpful to have a sense of how much money would be freed up to put towards other purposes. There should be sufficient information here to answer this question. I'm setting aside the wisdom of making such cuts, and will leave it that reasonable people can disagree about how much or how little administration we need.

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