QUOTES & STORIES
GOOD VALUE, OR CHEAP?...
I’ve always thought of Reading as being a “good value” town to live in. What I mean by that is, we get more for the taxes we pay than we might get elsewhere. Sometimes it makes sense to pay a little more, if it gets you significantly more value, and I feel that this is how Reading has been in the past.
Over the past five years, I’ve become concerned that the value part of Reading is at risk, and we might become another town that emphasizes “cheap” over value.
Currently, Reading has a reputation of being a safe, well run, well maintained town, with good schools, strong athletics and arts, and lots of community involvement and activities. We have a tax rate in the bottom third of the state, and have maintained a “AAA” credit rating. Everything you want in a town. A great place to live, before, during, and after raising a family. Each aspect of this is valuable to me.
On the other hand, Reading has a per-pupil expense in the bottom 10% in the state, and teacher pay below the average of peer communities. We have a smaller police and fire force than we did in 1975, despite population growth. We’ve cut education for the past five years, and haven’t filled police and fire positions. All of this seems cheap and short-sighted.
Without sufficient police and fire protection, Reading becomes less safe and a less desirable place to live. Without investing in education, we won’t be able to hire great teachers, our schools will suffer, and Reading will become a less desirable place to live. If Reading becomes less desirable, people will leave, and new people won’t come. That will affect property values for everyone.
It’s true that if property values go down, so will the amount of taxes you pay. But to me, that would be “cutting off your nose to spite your face”.
Reading has not passed a budget override for 15 years. On average, Massachusetts towns pass an override every eight years. Through good management of both the town and the schools, we’ve done a lot with what we have. For the past five years, we’ve cut where we can cut, we’ve squeezed where we can squeeze. We’re at the point of cutting out the value.
Let’s think about what’s valuable to us in Reading. The proposed $4.15M override will maintain the value of our town. I plan to vote for it, to preserve the “good value” town I moved to 19 years ago. I hope you will too. Please don’t be cheap.
Mt. Vernon Street