By: Lawrence “Lonnie” Brennan – July, 2012
Family matters have kept me consumed these past few months, and several folks either sent e-mails or called asking why my column, after many, many years, was missing from this August’s publication. Well, a topic for another day. But last week Tim and I got together for the first time in months, and he had a lot to say about taxes.
Look, Tim said, “they lied about the last tax increase, told me to ignore the assessor’s office that their numbers were what counted, but funny, the assessors sent me a whopping tax increase. So, who is the liar? That override cost me almost double what they said it would.”
‘Ah, Tim, it is what it is. For some folks, their taxes went down. Fortunately, you’re at least one of the ones who voted unlike…’
“Yeah, I know, most of my neighbors just complained when they got hit with the hike this year. They forgot all about the override vote last year. Thought it was no big deal. I told them, speak to the hand”, Tim said showing me his palm as the waitress filled his coffee cup.
‘Yeah, I’ve experienced the same thing. Oh well, at least the money went to the kids, right,’ I said with a smile. That was it, launch-time for Tim:
“Sure, the kids, right. All of a sudden the town is flush with funds, more than a million dollars in one fell swoop of tax increases on everyone, and do you know who gets the big check?”
As we’ve had this conversation before, I just nibble on some bacon and waited silently as his eyes started to explode.
“You think I’m going to say the teachers? Right?” Tim teased. “Because more than 80% of the funds got spent on their raises, right? Well, I’m not. I remember, you were telling me how you thought it was so disingenuous for them to announce a 3% raise last cycle, when, after applying longevity bonuses and step-and-column-bonuses, 60% of the teachers actually got handed raises from 6-11%. Well, they’re going to do the same thing again, call a 10% raise a 3% raise, but that’s not what I mean. This time, someone else benefitted too,” he said.
‘O.K., I’ll bite. You probably mean the superintendent who will make approx. $120,000 per year or more as part of her retirement package when she moves on, and who this school committee is giving an annual package of almost $175,000 to? Oh, and speaking of retirement, they instituted a new $1,000 per month bonus check to her that they’re putting in a separate retirement deferred-earnings account for her? Tim, that’s old news, no one cares. She’s a nice lady. What’s your point Tim?’
“No one cares that we pay so much,” he began, “I’ll tell you what has my friends upset. The selectmen put in a new line item in this year’s budget. They had so much money to throw around they gave their friend the town administrator a $3,500 bonus.’
‘Bonus? No, you mean a retirement thing, just like the super.’
“Call it what you want, but they raised taxes, and suddenly a guy making close to six figures for working 4-days/week gets a $3,500 bonus. Where is that fair? What kind of raise did you get this year you working stiff?,” Tim challenged.
‘Let’s not go there. Hey this food was great, we should have breakfast here more often,’ I said in an attempt to turn the subject.
“So, you know what they’re doing now, right?” Tim wound up again. “They’re going to slide in a special town meeting, either when all the white-hairs are out of town snow-birding, or sometime in the fall when folks are busy, and they’re going to double-down on a whopping tax increase,” he sputtered.
‘Oh, you mean the new school, right’, I murmured.
“Yup. Georgetown’s Big Dig is what they should call it. For years they’ve been doing everything they can to inflate any costs of repairs, and now they’re trying to minimize the estimate to replace the school. Pure salesmanship, and in the end, we’ll be on the tab for $20-30 million of a probably $50 million project. What do you think that will do to us? And you can expect they’ll use the phones again and send messages homes with the kids and do a big get-out-the-vote with all the school folks who don’t understand, and who plop down here long enough to spit their kids through the school system, then they move.”
‘It is what it is, ‘I reminded Tim. ‘You’re just going to have to work more, because you’ll be shoveling out a couple of thousand more in taxes over the next few years. It’s life. They want a new school and they don’t care about the cost. They’re busy picking out the paint colors and the drapes. Get over it.’
“More coffee, Tim?” “Nope gotta be in the office for 8. Us working stiffs can’t hang around all day.”
Lonnie Brennan is a former Georgetown Selectman and a former candidate for State Rep. and a political activist. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org