Why are Acton's property taxes so high? (Part 4)

Mon, 2014-05-12

Peter Ashton belongs in the Acton Volunteer Hall of Fame for his long and distinguished service to the town. He started out on the town's Finance Committee and then served for nine years as a Selectmen. Many who retire from the board continue serving the town in valuable capacities, including Peter. He has spearheaded several task forces and citizen groups, including the recent move to fully regionalize the school system which was approved by Town Meeting in April, 2013, and has long done the analysis to predict future student population enrollment which Acton has relied on for school planning purposes. He is married to current Finance Committee member Mary Ann Ashton.

Why are Acton's property taxes so high?

Ashton: I disagree with the general premise that Acton's taxes are so high. I do not believe they are so high relative to the high quality services that we receive, especially public education which is ranked among the highest in the state, the reasonable housing prices which makes the cost of living in Acton modest overall (considering housing cost plus property taxes) especially relative to other so-called high tax communities. Furthermore, many clearly do not see property taxes as a deterrent to living in Acton as expressed by the continued strong demand for housing in Acton.

NEXT: Part Five (Charlie Kadlec): http://www.actonforum.com/story/why-are-actons-property-taxes-so-high-pa...

To read Part One (introduction): http://www.actonforum.com/blogs/allenn/acton-forum-launch-debate-propert...

To read Part Two (Clint Seward): http://www.actonforum.com/story/why-are-actons-property-taxes-so-high-pa...

To read Part Three (Janet Adachi): http://www.actonforum.com/story/why-are-actons-property-taxes-so-high-pa...

Subscribe to the Acton Forum and get our newsletters emailed to you -- FREE! Click on http://www.actonforum.com/subscribe-actonforum-newsletter

Comments

Why are Acton’s property taxes so high? (Part 0)

Comment from an anonymous reader:

#1 — Silly question, Acton’s taxes are where they are because we authorize virtually every cent spent at our Open Town Meeting.

The tax rate is the result (more or less) of one annual long division — Town total value divided by the amount authorized at town meeting.

(Yeah, there are a couple of other sources of income, (e.g. state aid, personal property, auto excise) and we get to add new growth, and have proposition 2.5 limits,
but basically see #1.)

Allen Nitschelm has lived in Acton since 1998 and writes about fiscal issues at the
local and state level. He is a former member of the town's Finance Committee
and publisher of the Acton Forum.

HOW HIGH IS UP?

Mr. Ashton, yet another politician, responds too generally to the question of why Acton's property taxes are too high. He suggests the property taxes " I do not believe they are so high relative to the high quality services that we receive, especially public education which is ranked among the highest in the state..." How high is the level of services we receive? With the singular exception of the town center Acton's public lands are neither clean nor well maintained, in my opinion. As for public education being ranked among the highest in the state, says who? By what standard? What is the cost of public education in comparably rated communities? In what sense do the town leaders have any impact except a negative one on the cost of property in Acton? Suggesting property values in Acton being low is a positive is absurd. Property is an investment. Investments for the low and middle class need to increase.

As for Mr. Ashton's final statement, "...many clearly do not see property taxes as a deterrent to living in Acton as expressed by the continued strong demand for housing in Acton." The people asking why our property taxes are so high are citizens of Acton, not people who are considering moving to Acton.

Politicians, in and out of office, all have some common traits and one of them is never speaking in specifics when answering direct questions.