Patch sent three questions to Republican state senate candidates Eric Dahlberg and Sandi Martinez, who will face off in the Sept. 14 primary. The second question, about property taxes, is below. Both candidates are from Chelmsford. The winner faces Sen. Susan Fargo (D-Lincoln) in the Nov. 2 election.
Q. What are some ways you would work to manage the growth in property taxes? What would you say to older folks that may have to move out of their home because their taxes are so high? Are there remedies you can suggest as alternatives to the property tax?
Dahlberg: The state should take the handcuffs off cities and towns so local officials can make cost-saving decisions locally. The most glaring opportunity for such savings is municipal health insurance plan design - empowering municipalities to alter their health plans the same way that virtually every private sector organization in the state (as well as the state itself!) does. Such a move would allow cities and towns to save an estimated $100 million annually in the aggregate. These savings could be used to provide property tax relief to the taxpayers, as well as to replenish depleted stabilization funds and to restore deficient services.
Martinez: Property tax bills rise when local budgets cannot keep pace with revenues. A major source of these budgeting problems is Chapter 70 funding inequity (including many unfunded mandates). The taxpayers cannot, and should not continue to sustain the current system.
According to a recent report from the Massachusetts Association of School Business Officers (MASBO), the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents and Massachusetts Association of School Committees (MASC):
"The largest legislated program to fund public education, known commonly as the Chapter 70 funding system does not cover in full, the cost of mandates inherent in the law and regulations. The system remains essentially as it was at the start of the Education Reform program in 1993. The reimbursement formula has been modified somewhat and annual funding has increased significantly, but school districts have for many years had to budget for expenses that outstrip both the rate of inflation and the state's ability to grow state aid to education faster than the cost-of-living for schools."
We need to address this inequity as soon as possible. I intend to eliminate unnecessary unfunded mandates on cities and towns and to work to simplify and correct the system by which our tax dollars are returned to our communities.