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Q&A with candidates round one from ITR 02 24-13


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Q&A with candidates round one from ITR 02 24-13

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Q&A with candidates round one from ITR 02 24-13

  1. 1. BOB JOYCEITR:Why do you want to (put yourself through this and) runfor Selectman?BJ:Having served as a Selectman from 1993-­‐96 I have anapprecia;on for what is involved to serve in this posi;on.I have no;ced over the past five years that the currentBoards have been less concerned about the residen;altaxpayers and more concerned about building theinfrastructure of the Town. While this is an admirablething to invest in our infrastructure, we have come to apoint where the taxpayers cannot handle any moreincreases in taxes. We are now resor;ng to replacing oldsewer debt, and other re;red debt with new debt. Theyjus;fy this by saying that the annual debt servicepayment will not go up, this is true but why not let our debt service payments go down and pass those savings ontothe taxpayers. If Projects need to be funded they should be subjected to a Proposi;on 2 ½ Debt exemp;on vote.While this will add to the Debt service, it will only be for a set period of ;me and then the debt payment will drop.Some examples of this are the new $7.7 million Fire Sta;on on Billerica Road and the new $13.5 million DPWBuilding on Alpha Road. In both these cases they have absorbed the debt into the debt structure by replacing olddebt with debt on these projects. In the case of the DPW we passed a Prop 2 ½ debt exclusion for $4.5 million butthere are no plans to ask for another Prop 2 ½ debt exemp;on for the remaining $9 million to complete the project.That will be covered by replacing old debt and moving money from the Town’s free-­‐cash each year, rather thanusing that free-­‐cash to reduce the tax rate. As the campaign gets into full swing I will be discussing ways ofproviding relief to the residen;al taxpayers.ITR:With State aid drying up more and more each year what would you suggest to keepour taxes in control?BJ:According to the Town Manager, “State aid is uncertain”. And under Governor Patrick’s current proposed budget, itdoesn’t get any beYer. In fact, we have a poten;al of paying significantly more in State income taxes as well asloosing many deduc;ons. In order to keep our taxes in control we need to stop the spending, par;cularly in thearea of debt as stated earlier. Our collec;ve bargaining contracts have not been seYled and are not funded in theproposed budget, this may be an area where we will need to “;ghten” our belt. We also should take a look at“deferring” major purchases in the capital budget. We should also look at our long standing prac;ce of single rateclassifica;on
  2. 2. ITR:Tax Classification/Split Tax Rate: It’s been almost a decade since the last time thetown studied classification. Do you think we should form a study committee to giveanother look at classification? Why or why not?BJ:Yes, I believe it is ;me to re-­‐evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of a split tax rate. If a new commiYee wereappointed, I would require that none of the people who served on previous Classifica;on Study commiYees wouldbe appointed. This commiYee should be appointed immediately a^er the sea;ng of the new Board of Selectmen inApril so that a report could be available by early November. If due to reduced state aid the town was forced to raisetaxes, it may be more effec;ve to shi^ the tax rate of less than 20% of proper;es in town where it would giveresiden;al taxpayers no increase.ITR:What is your opinion on the new fire station and it’s location(connected to the town offices on Billerica Road)?BJ:It is no secret that I am opposed to building the New Fire Sta;on next to the Town Offices on Billerica Road, but Ihave NEVER been opposed to building a new sta;on. The loca;on is not appropriate because of it’s residen;allayout. I have always tried to protect the residen;al neighborhoods in Chelmsford. Whether it is in the Westland’s,on High Street or in North Chelmsford. We are building this sta;on just to get it done. We are building a sta;on thatdoes not have “drive-­‐thru” bays which were recommended by a study made by MMA several years ago. The currentloca;on has major traffic issues during rush hours and poten;al problems naviga;ng Wilson Street which is a verynarrow street. It forces all the employees in Town Offices to park in the lower level near the gym and forcesaddi;onal traffic out the dirt road next to Lussier Insurance and the LiYle League fields eventually having to get outinto traffic on Chelmsford Street (Rte. 110) If we have all this extra money to fund this project without funding itthru a Prop 2 ½ Debt exemp;on, then why didn’t we just build it on the Wilson Street ball field site.
  3. 3. JANETASKENBURGITR:Why do you want to (put yourself through this and) runfor Selectman?JA:I am running for Chelmsford Selectman becauseI want to offer my experience as a businessleader, community volunteer, and advocate fortransparency and fiscal responsibility to helpmaintain and improve the quality of life for allChelmsford residents.For the past three years I have thoroughlyenjoyed serving as a member of the ChelmsfordSchool Committee, serving as Chairman for thelast two consecutive years. There have beenmany changes implemented in our schoolsystem over the past three years, and I amproud of all that we have accomplished. I believemy years on the School Committee haveprovided me with knowledge and experience that will be beneficial in dealing with issues we face as a town.My husband Bill and I are raising two sons in Chelmsford and are proud to call Chelmsford home. I have aB.A. from the University of West Florida. I am a principal at Ryan, LLC, a global tax services firm, and haveworked in the financial and corporate tax consulting industries for over twenty years and in variousleadership roles., My goal as a member of the Board of Selectmen will be to work as a team member toensure that excellence is achieved and sustained through transparent, efficient, fiscally responsible, andhighly effective means.I encourage people who would like more information about my candidacy to email me or call me at (978) 764-8037. Please join me at my campaign party on Friday,March 15th at Princeton Station from 6pm-10pm.,ITR:With State aid drying up more and more each year what would you suggest to keep our taxes incontrol?JA:Growing up, my father instilled in me the importance of living within your means, and the importance ofspending wisely and making every penny count. As a member of the School Committee, we proactivelyfaced looming budget reductions with strategic priorities and goals, efficiency audits, transparency, andaccountability.We made some very difficult budget decisions which resulted in over $1 million in savings, which was usedto offset reductions in state aid, contract increases, and strategically reinvested back into our schools toensure we deliver excellence in education. I believe this same approach will improve the performance,effectiveness, and accountability of our town government.To help reduce the heavy tax burden on residents we need to create new revenue opportunities anddecrease our commercial vacancy rate. We currently have many empty buildings that need to be filled withtenants, which will provide new tax receipts and jobs for Chelmsford citizens. Also, new revenuegenerating opportunities should be explored and developed. For example, the current proposal to createturf fields in Chelmsford will provide new opportunities for Chelmsford to host regional and state athletic
  4. 4. competitions, which will result in revenues from field rentals and visitors filling our hotels, restaurants, andstores.ITR:Tax Classification/Split Tax Rate: It’s been almost a decade since the last time thetown studied classification. Do you think we should form a study committee to giveanother look at classification? Why or why not?JA:After reviewing Chelmsford’s last presentation on tax classification, presentations from otherMassachusetts towns, and research papers on the long term effect of tax classification, I believe taxclassification is not the answer to tax relief for our citizens. Based upon a review of the November 2012tax classification presentation to the Board of Selectmen, in order to achieve a significant tax reduction tothe average single family homeowner, the corresponding shift in taxes would result in an increase of over$7,000 to the average commercial business owner, and almost $15,000 per year for industrial properties.For our businesses in town, this would be a very significant increase and one that could be the differencebetween staying in Chelmsford or leaving for another town. For our small businesses, this is a burden thatcould jeopardize their ability to stay in business, especially during these tough economic times. Increasingthe tax commercial tax rate could cause our current businesses to relocate, thereby increasing the futureresidential tax burden.Our local businesses are great partners with our schools. I have seen firsthand through my time on theSchool Committee how generous our local businesses are to our schools, with their donations of money,technology, goods, and their employees’ time. Now is not the time for us to be divisive and turn upon oneanother. Therefore I believe our time could be better spent on working together to find answers tocontrolling property taxes for the entire town.ITR:What is your opinion on the new fire station and it’s location(connected to the town offices on Billerica Road)?JA:The location has been chosen and it is time for us to work together to make it a fire station that we can beproud of as a community. It is critical that we not only involve the abutters, but listen to their concerns andmake compromises whenever possible. We need to take our time during this process and fully evaluatethe long term impacts of all decisions, being careful not to rush the process for the goal of meeting aproject deadline.
  5. 5. PAT MALONEYITR:Why do you want to (put yourself through this and) runfor Selectman?PM:For the past 23 years, as owner and CEO of aChelmsford-based construction management firm, I’velearned what it takes to show fiscal constraint, weathereconomic downturns and move forward in the face ofadversity. I’ve put that experience to good use byoverseeing building investments made by the towntotaling close to $60 million. With the exception of thenew fire headquarters currently in the final planningstages, all of the projects I have been involved withhave been completed on time and within budget whilereturning more than $17 million in State reimbursementto the taxpayers – money that stays in your wallet.While collaborating on the various town projects overthe last 13 years, I have worked with several different Boards of Selectmen, School Committees, PlanningBoards, Conservation Commissions, various town departments, three school superintendents, and twotown managers. I understand how town government, schools, town boards and departments operate. I understand thedogged determination it takes to form successful relationships with state reps and to advance efforts toincrease state funding and reimbursement/grants to the taxpayers.I really love this town. I grew up here, raised my children here, operate a business here and I believe myexperience makes me uniquely qualified to help guide the town in moving forward to preserving the greatquality of life we enjoy here, maintaining fiscal conservancy, and protecting our investments.I am proud of this town and all of its accomplishments produced by wonderful people who share a sense ofcommunity that propels us to achieve what sometimes seems impossible. Serving the town has been anextremely rewarding and enriching experience and I look forward to the possibility of using that experienceas one of your next Selectmen. That is why I respectfully ask for one your two votes for the Board ofSelectmen on April 2, 2013.ITR:With State aid drying up more and more each year what would you suggest to keep our taxes in control?PM:While understanding that change is the only constant, I do believe that the economy is starting to turnaround. We have seen small increases in State aid this year, but we must work hard to aggressively lobbyfor increased State aid and grants to ensure that the Town of Chelmsford receives what is rightfully due andfair to the taxpayer.During a very depressed economy we have been fortunate to rebuild our stabilization fund to the mandatedgoal of between 5-10% of our overall budget resulting in an improved bond rating (twice) that saves thetown money when borrowing. We have been able to fund the design and construction of a new fire
  6. 6. headquarters within the budget, eliminating the need for a debt exclusion that would otherwise requiretaxes above and beyond the overall budget.Understanding that there is always room for improvement in the pursuit of higher efficiency and loweringcosts, I believe we should continue doing all the things we do well now and continue to enhance savingsby: • Maintaining the Stabilization Fund at the appropriate levels. • Increasing efforts to obtain State aid and grants. • Advancing our Green Community standards and rewards for increased efficiencies. • Pursuing all energy grants available by providers. • Obtaining lowest possible cost in the procurement of goods and services for the town. • Protecting and maintaining town investments and our infrastructure. • Maintaining low debt.In an improving economy, and due to past fiscal constraint, the town is well positioned to take advantage ofemerging opportunities that could likely result in controlling and lowering costs for the taxpayers.Throughout my life in business and in many town projects, many have heard me say something my fatheralways told me, “watch out for the pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves.” I believe in thisphilosophy and will apply it in all town endeavors.ITR:Tax Classification/Split Tax Rate: It’s been almost a decade since the last time the town studiedclassification. Do you think we should form a study committee to give another look atclassification? Why or why not?PM:I am not opposed to forming a study committee to review classification, however I think it is appropriateand reasonable to ask the BOS to begin with a review of past studies, and gather information to ascertainwhether any changes or shifts in economics or the town’s demographics warrant a new study. This reviewshould detail any findings or reasons for or against commissioning a new study.ITR:What is your opinion on the new fire station and it’s location(connected to the town offices on Billerica Road)?PM:After years of knowing something needed to be done, the town voted on a solution that was a cost-effective compromise while meeting the needs of the firefighters and the community. Two efforts to locatethe headquarters at Wilson and Chelmsford Streets were rejected by the voters. The Billerica Road sitepassed both at Town Meeting and the ballot box. This location meets the criteria of the original study in thatit is less than a ¼ mile from the original site, it is on town owned land, and meets the needs of a modernfire headquarters for our town. The new site also offers further efficiencies in cost due to locating the FireChief’s Administration and Fire Prevention offices in space at the adjacent town offices being vacated bythe DPW, Sewer, and Engineering departments. This decreases the amount of new construction requiredto meet the need, resulting in savings of more than $1 million to the taxpayers.While there will never be a perfect solution to address every concern, I do believe this project meets thelong term needs of the community at a fiscally conservative cost.
  7. 7. MATT HANSONITR:Why do you want to (put yourself through this and) runfor Selectman?MH:Serving as a member of the Board of Selectmen forthe past three years has truly been an honor andprivilege. Having grown up in Chelmsford and recentlypurchased my first home in town, I have a deepconnection with my community. Working as aSelectman is the perfect way for me to serve mycommunity while utilizing my passion for publicservice and my academic experience. I hold aBachelor’s Degree in political science and a Master’sDegree in regional economic and social developmentfrom the University of Massachusetts at Lowell, andsee a political career in my future.As a member of the Board of Selectmen, I am able towork collaboratively with countless residents andcommunity volunteers on a daily basis to ensure thatChelmsford remains the superb town that we all love.I remain passionate about public service and my roleon the Board of Selectmen, and I am hopeful that youwill allow me the opportunity to continue serving inthis capacity for another 3 years. For me, there is nobetter or more exciting way to learn how to manage challenges or to make a meaningful impact than to beaccountable to residents in a thriving community.During the past three years as a Selectman, I have learned to listen to all sides of an issue, ask the toughquestions, respect the views of others and cast my vote in the best interest of the community. Someexamples are the restoration of our two historic Town Halls, the preservation of more than 267 acres ofopen space land for public and agricultural use, and securing the first residential property tax relief inmore than 10 years. I am truly grateful that the residents of our town had the confidence to elect me asSelectman three years ago, and I would be honored to serve as your Selectman for another term. Ipledge to continue working tirelessly on issues important to you, the voters, and our community.ITR:With State aid drying up more and more each year what would you suggest to keep our taxes in control?MH:During my first term as Selectman, I have secured nearly a million dollars in property tax relief andfostered financial best practices to ensure the town’s overall financial stability. The town’s bond rating hasimproved twice in the past two years (now AA) during one of the worst recessions our country has seen. Isupported the State Healthcare Reform saving the town more than $1 million in the first year. This is just afew examples of how I have contributed to “keep our taxes in control.”Moving forward, I will continue to work hard to accomplish further savings through increased efficiencies,budget cost control, regionalization of services, and economic development/redevelopment activities. Forexample, Chelmsford could save more than $200,000/year by participating in a regional public safetydispatching center. I serve as a councilor on the Northern Middlesex Council of Governments asChelmsford’s Board of Selectmen liaison, where I have been working on this project for the past twoyears. The substantial savings realized though this and other regionalization efforts could be used toenhance other areas of public safety and create additional property tax relief. Additionally, through mywork on the Energy Conservation Committee, I have worked to increase the use of solar and otheralternative energy sources in our schools and public buildings. I have supported the recent EnergyServices Management Agreement with Johnson Controls. This project will make “cutting edge”investments in 26 of our public buildings, such as temperature controls, energy efficient lighting, and solarpanels. These investments will be fully funded through reductions in energy consumption and they willeliminate future capital cost for replacement equipment, further reducing the tax burden.
  8. 8. Creating savings is extremely important, but in order to keep taxes in control, elected officials must maketax relief a priority. Creating savings in one area and spending it somewhere else will not keep “taxes incontrol.” That is why I fought hard during my first term to successfully achieve tax relief by offsettingproperty tax bills with nearly a million dollars in unspent funds from the previous year’s budget. The cost ofrunning the town increases every year, and achieving tax relief is a constant challenge. Tax relief must beweighed against maintaining or increasing services, paying off outstanding debt, investing in newtechnology for our schools and public safety personnel, and maintaining our quality of life. I guarantee thatI weigh all options with expert and public input.During the past three years, the list of projects we have completed as a community to increase efficiencies,reduce the residential tax burden and make our government more efficient is remarkable. If re-elected, Ipromise to continue working on projects that will save the town money, without sacrificing the high qualityof services that residents expect.ITR:Tax Classification/Split Tax Rate: It’s been almost a decade since the last time the town studiedclassification. Do you think we should form a study committee to give another look atclassification? Why or why not?MH:Every year the Board of Selectmen studies the issue of Tax Classification and decides whether the townwill keep a unified rate or create a split tax rate. During the planning process for the Master Plan, the ideaof utilizing a committee to study tax classification every few years was discussed in great detail. It wasultimately decided to not include something like this in the Master Plan and instead, the Board ofSelectmen should continue to review the issue every year before making a decision.This review includes analyzing the data on tax rates from surrounding and comparable communities,reviewing the possible exemptions that could be utilized, reviewing different possible variations of a splittax rate (up to the 50% allowed by State Law), and reviewing the actual dollar amount changes that wouldbe realized on the average tax bill. Every year the Town Assessors make a presentation to the Board ofSelectmen explaining the intricacies of the previously mentioned issues, and the Board accepts publicinput from both residents and business owners. I am sure that people will always have differing opinions onthis issue; however, I am confident the issue is thoroughly reviewed on an annual basis. Any informationthat the Board of Selectmen, a resident or a business owner has asked for before a decision is made hasalways been made available. If anyone believes that there is more the Board of Selectmen should considerbefore voting on the tax rate, I would encourage them to contact me. To date, no one has asked me toconsider creating a study committee or change the current process that the Board of Selectmen alreadyconducts thoroughly on an annual basis.I seek input from residents and business owners on this issue every year, so if you have any concerns youwould like to share with me, please contact me at (978) 319-5383 or votehanson@gmail.comITR:What is your opinion on the new fire station and it’s location(connected to the town offices on Billerica Road)?MH:The new fire station headquarters is a great example of what can be achieved when the members of thetown government listen to the residents. On two occasions, residents turned down fire station proposals atWilson Street. The feedback I heard from residents was loud and clear, stating that the project was initiallytoo expensive and they did not like the Wilson Street location for a variety of reasons. After hearing thisfeedback, the Town took a deeper look at ways to save money and find a new location.The current location connected to the town offices on Billerica Road was approved by the voters. Inaddition, we were able to develop a proposal that would fund the construction within the budget andwithout a proposition 2 ½ tax override. This will be made possible by renovating and utilizing vacant spacein Town Hall for fire station administration and training areas, lowering the overall cost of the project. Ibelieve that the combination of these factors is what resulted in the residents of Chelmsford ultimatelysupporting this proposal and will provide a state of the art public safety facility for the next fifty years.
  9. 9. I would like to briefly mention that my fellow Board members and I made a conscious choice to give votersthe opportunity to voice their opinion about the Billerica Road proposal on Election Day. Many people,including myself, did not feel it would be fair for the residents to vote on the Wilson Street fire stationproposal without the same opportunity for the Billerica Road location and plan. I also want to thank themany Town Meeting Representatives who called to share this same concern with me.To contact me on any of these issues or about any other topic, I can be reached at (978) 319-5383 To be an effective public servant I need input from residents like you, so pleasedon’t hesitate to contact me. Thank you very much for taking the time to read my responses today. Irespectfully ask for one of your two votes on April 2nd. ☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ An invita(on was extended to all 5 candidates to par(cipate in the Q&A, but the In Town Report did not receive any response from the 5th candidate by the ITR deadline. ☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ Round 2 of the Selectmen Q&A in the next ITRQuestion 1:What is your opinion (based on cost and revenue production) of the turf field warrant article andthe use of community preservation funds for the project?Question 2:What is your opinion of licensing stores (grocery,convenient,specialty) other than liquorstores sell beer and wine?Question 3:What is your opinion of the work done by the Oak Hill Study Committee?And do you think the town meeting should accept their recommendationto put the land under the control of the Selectmen for three years first beforeturning it over to the control of the Conservation Committee? Why or Why Not?Question 4: In your opinion how is Town Manager Paul Cohen doing? What would youwant him to do differently, if anything?