Tag Archives: Peabody taxes

Tax increases becoming a Peabody holiday tradition

7 Dec

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

So, I know that we need the money to run the city, and certainly we can argue all day whether Peabody has a spending problem, a revenue problem, or – most likely – both.

santa

After raising taxes for the 17th straight year, Peabody’s leaders deserve a lump of coal from this guy.

But tonight, during the city council meeting at Wiggin Auditorium, Mayor Ted Bettencourt – who since his watch began in 2012 has raised taxes on residents every year – will step to the mic during the annual tax classification hearing, and give us all another great, big holiday kiss.

In what has become an annual refrain in this space since we first started aggravating the powers that be five years ago . . . Merry Christmas, Peabody residents, your taxes are going up again.

Now, I don’t plan to dissect the budget in today’s missive, and talk about why we must endure yet another increase (I’ll let the mayor do that). And, please keep in mind that this hasn’t only been a Bettencourt problem.

After 20 years of not raising taxes under the reign of Powerful Pete Torigian, we’ve since endured 17 straight years of annual residential increases. So . . . we can also give some of the dubious “credit” to Mike Bonfanti.  Following many years of frugal management by a mayor who one legendary local scribe used to call “the Emperor,” Bonfanti racked up 11 straight years of tax increases.

Since I don’t want to steal the current mayor’s thunder by giving all the gory details, tune into PAT Channel 9 tonight, starting at 7 to learn about Teflon Ted’s gift that keeps on giving. But here are some of the lowlights:

  • The average Peabody residential tax bill will go up by $142, but since that calculation considers every residential property in the city, get ready to be wacked much worse if you live in a house that is valued above $400K (which includes most of the homes west of Route 1).

 

  • The average annual tax bill is now more than $4,100, a 20% increase since Bettencourt took office in 2012. Although these modest increases don’t seem like much on an annual basis, most of us are paying close to $700 more a year in property taxes since the first Bettencourt budget.

 

  • Since 2001, the average Peabody resident tax bill has almost doubled. That’s right, an almost 100% increase since Torigian left office.

Now, the mayor tonight is likely to try and soften the blow by talking about higher property values, and how our taxes are still lower on average than most other North Shore communities.

But the property value argument (raising city wide property assessments is how they got to the increase number), won’t be a benefit to seniors on fixed incomes, who plan to live in their home until death do them part. People living on Social Security and Medicare have legitimate fears that – if taxes continue to increase – they won’t be able to live out their lives in the homes they worked so hard to own outright. Or, that higher taxes will force them to choose between food or medications. And, I’ll remind the mayor and our city councilors that 85% of residents over the age of 70 always vote.

As for the “we’re still one of the lowest taxed on the North Shore” argument? Well, that and five bucks will get you a nice Holiday Latte at Starbuck’s. Peabody seniors don’t pay taxes in Salem, Danvers or Lynnfield, so that argument is about as relevant as Al Franken’s next vote in the Senate.

At the end of the day, I think all we’d like is a solution. As my colleague Dick Jarvis, himself a senior living on a fixed income, said last night on our “You Make the Call” TV show on PAT: “Why can’t government do what the rest of us do: Live within our means?” In other words, what would be so wrong with the mayor saying: “We’re just going to have to tighten our belt, and not raise taxes again this year, and I’m asking my department heads to come to me with a budget proposal that is 5% less than last year?”

It’s what Torigian would have done.

Here’s hoping that, as he’s delivering yet another tax increase “kiss” tonight that Ted says, “read my lips, no tax increase next year.”

But since the track record indicates otherwise, we highly doubt it.

New voke school is the ‘gift’ that keeps on giving for Peabody taxpayers

17 Sep

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

It’s the “gift” that keeps on giving, and now there’s reason to believe that Peabody taxpayers might be further fleeced because of an oversight when it comes to the new, totally ostentatious North Shore Technical School.

taxesYou see, the genius political movers and shakers, who built this Palace of Versailles of voke schools, forgot about a “little” obligation owed to the retirees of Essex Aggie, which was merged with the new voke.

Turns out that no one figured into the already over-inflated cost of the new school an additional $375,000 owed annually to pensioners. What that means is that Peabody, which wasn’t even part of the old district that included Essex Aggie, might be on the hook for a big chunk this oversight.

Oops! Maybe State Rep Ted Speliotis, a champion of this over-priced  educational edifice should simply throw up his arms and say … “sorry, the dog ate my homework.”

The new school, which will serve fewer than 200 of Peabody’s 6,000 students, is already taking a $3 million bite out of Peabody’s budget. This year, it was the primary reason for Peabody being forced, for the 13 straight year, to raise taxes on homeowners.

The problem now is that no one wants to own this mistake when it comes to the pension obligation, and no one seems to know how or why the oversight happened in the first place. Of course, the answer is simple as to who will “own” it. It belongs to us, and the taxpayers of all of the other communities who joined in here.

It’s too bad, since I’m sure the movers and shakers behind this over-the-top luxurious school building could have easily swept it under the rug when it came to the overall budget. Heck, no one would have even noticed. Right?

But now, we likely own it, and the question is, how much of it will be the obligation of Peabody taxpayers, whose kids never milked one cow at the old Essex Aggie?

Follow Bob on Twitter @eyeonpeabody