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Acton Town Meeting tainted by special interests

Acton Town Meeting (file photo)
Acton Town Meeting (file photo)

Tuesday, April 8, 2014 Town Meeting votes questioned.

In Acton, it has become conventional wisdom that the schools are supported by parents who move to town to give their kids a great education and thus are generally in favor of higher school spending.

These voters are somewhat balanced out by people who want to control rising property taxes. As our residents get older, some move away, others stay, but the "empty nesters" who remain are often concerned about our high property tax rate and want to see costs controlled.

Few Acton residents want to see the schools decline in any way, but there are legitimate differences of opinion about the role of property taxation for public schools and how much is enough....

Article continues on www.ActonForum.com at:

 http://www.actonforum.com/blogs/allenn/acton-town-meeting-tainted-special-interests


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Brady's Mom April 16, 2014 at 09:18 PM
The problem with Town Meeting isn't that a quarter of the voters who showed up on the 2nd night purportedly worked for the schools or have a spouse who does, the problem is that only 430 out of over 13,000 voters participated. But even if those 100 school-related employees were disallowed from voting (is that what Mr. Nitschelm would suggest?), the schools budget would have easily passed that night with only a few voice votes heard opposing it. I would suggest that Mr. Nitschelm is most peeved that the motion to end debate on the school budget passed before he got to speak.
Allen Nitschelm April 16, 2014 at 10:06 PM
As I think I explained, Town Meeting attendance is abysmal, so special interests have a disproportionate voice in the outcome. Perhaps the assessment would have passed anyway, perhaps not. 100 voices yelling "Aye" can make a big difference, and if the vote were closer some voters would have thought longer and perhaps would have wanted to hear more comments about the motion, including mine. But with the deck stacked for passage, I could have talked for hours and it wouldn't have made any difference. So no, I'm not peeved, just disappointed that so many had their minds made up after such a quick discussion. But I have to admit that it was pretty funny to see MacKenzie pass over me several times and then allow the motion to move the question before I had a chance to speak one way or the other on the topic.
Rama April 17, 2014 at 11:10 AM
So the "empty nesters" are OK with higher taxes while their kids are in the school system, and then want lower taxes once their kids no longer need the school system? Wow.
Allen Nitschelm April 17, 2014 at 02:57 PM
Bingo! And it makes sense if you think of it this way: We have a wonderful school system--why not give another family willing to pay Acton's high property tax rate the benefit of a great education by moving out and letting them move in? Then the "users" are paying for the "service." Sort of like tolls on a highway. Now if you object to this line of reasoning, you don't have to leave town and can continue to pay your property tax bill. But I have (anecdotally) heard from tons of people who feel this way and have left town. Several of them wanted to stay but simply couldn't afford the taxes or didn't think it was in their personal financial interest to keep paying them when they were on a fixed income and an extra $5,000 a year was significant to them. There are also people with kids in the school system now who are having a lot of trouble with our high tax rate. Others are obviously fine with it. But over time, this will skew our population into the "rich" and the "subsidized." We're on that road now and perhaps have already arrived at the destination.

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