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Much of the debate around the April 3rd Override ballot question has been focused on the price of our municipal services. We know the override if passed, will add $4.15million to the tax bases and $488 to the average residential tax bill. Far less discussed has been the value we place on these services. This is important to consider, as we are more likely to stretch our budgets to pay for things we hold dearest. All of us have a relationship with some aspect of our municipal government. Let me share two of mine.
When the Reading Fire Department responded to my home while my mother–in-law was suffering a stroke, paramedics, with the Advanced Life Support equipment we have in Reading, brought her back to life twice on the way to the hospital. Our family was blessed with another six months together before she succumbed to cancer. The spreadsheets produced by the Town Manager indicate the requested four additional fire fighters will cost the average tax payer $125. But the value of those firefighters might well be priceless.
In elementary school writing assignments induced panic attacks in my son. When he arrived at Parker with the double block 6th grade ELA, a “switch got flipped.” He became a prolific writer and story teller, leaving Parker with the English award. The spreadsheet says saving the middle school model will add $65 to the average tax bill. What value would you place on these outcomes? I know I would value them far in excess of their $190 price.
When John Adams wrote the Massachusetts Constitution, he spoke of the concept of Commonwealth. He wrote the sole purpose of organizing a government is for the common good. Government is a social compact by which the whole people covenants with each citizen and each citizen with the whole. He called this the essence of public virtue and public spirit.
It was in the spirit of this commonwealth and public virtue that Reading became the third town in the Commonwealth to adopt senior tax relief: 182 of our most financially vulnerable seniors, people who helped build this town, can now afford to age in place. They will enjoy an average 30% reduction on their property tax bill, paid for by their neighbors and local businesses. It is why seniors, with children long graduated, will support a vibrant and exemplary public school system.
Although Boston is experiencing an economic boom, Beacon Hill has increased its local aid to Reading by a scant 1.8%. Clearly if we are going to promote a Reading version of commonwealth, we need to rely on each other. Please join me in voting Yes on the Override.
Vice Chair Board of Selectmen