Foxes guarding Acton's henhouse

Acton taxpayers, be prepared for more property tax increases, as our town leadership and elected officials refuse to stem the tide in rising employee salaries and benefits, while School officials are seemingly planning a Proposition 2 1/2 override to pay for some new school buildings.

Boxborough residents will see more moderate tax increases, as the School regionalization formula starts to more heavily tilt in Boxborough's direction as temporary payments to reduce Acton's share of school costs are phased out. Boy, that was some sweet deal Acton's leadership negotiated on our behalf.

The annual ritual of the AB school committee to announce and approve a new three-year teachers' contract happened recently, and I bet nobody spoke or objected to what are surely raises in compensation much higher than inflation. This leads to Acton school assessments going up five or six percent a year.

As we reported last year, a working group to discuss changing employee health insurance costs and government subsidies was being held in executive session rather than open session, despite holding these same negotiations in open session four years ago. Needless to say, the results of the secret process that stresses collaboration between our paid managers and union workers resulted in no increase in the percentage that employees must pay for their health plans. At the SC meeting where the deal was announced, there were no public comments and no comments by any members of the School Committee which simply voted to ratify the secret deal.

Raising the percentage that town and school employees pay to more closely approach what workers pay in the private-sector is common sense and was used four years ago to save money. Increasing what employees contribute for their generous health-care benefits would save tens of millions of dollars over time, and would have a positive impact on our ability to, for example, afford new elementary school buildings. By instead giving token increases to worker's co-pays and negotiating new three-year employment agreements, the School is trying to "lock in" costs for the next several years, thereby giving taxpayers and voters just one alternative if they want to replace crumbling schools: raise taxes. Don't be surprised when the "do or die" scenario is presented to Town Meeting. Remember, it's all "for the children."

Where is Acton's Finance Committee when all these long-term decisions are being made? They are meeting with the other board leaders at Acton Leadership Group, happy to be part of the club and not make any waves. Nobody from the Fincom even got up to speak, despite this being on the SC's agenda. Well, I guess Fincom can tell the next Town Meeting how we continue to enjoy our high bond rating and how much this will save us in borrowing costs when we go to finance $100 or $150 million in new school building projects.

So far, taxpayers seem more than willing to keep having our taxes go up with no changes sought in leadership and no pressure being brought to bear to control cost increases. For those who can't afford $11,000 annual property tax bills, see how $12,000 or $13,000 feels. If you don't like it, there is the door. Don't let it hit you on the rear-end when you leave.

Subscribe to the Acton Forum and get our newsletters emailed to you -- FREE! Click Here!