The following article was submitted by Mark Gold,
current member of the Longmeadow Select Board to the Longmeadow Buzz blog and Longmeadow News for publication this week.
The development of the 2014 town budget demonstrated the limitations imposed on a fully “built-out” town like Longmeadow. With property tax increases limited to 2-1/2% year over year, most cities and towns in the Commonwealth turn to new growth, the development of previously vacant properties, to provide the funds needed to sustain their government’s budget. In the 1980’s Longmeadow garnered additional tax revenue from the development of Williamsburg Drive, in the 1990’s it was from Jonquil Lane and in the 2000’s Pendleton Lane. With no new housing tracts available for development, for the past seven years Longmeadow has found itself in the dilemma of revenue increases being limited by proposition 2-1/2. But this perceived reliance on real estate tax revenues need not restrict our ability to fund capital needs, wage and salary increase, and new service initiatives within Longmeadow.
Since being elected to the Select Board in 2009, I have focused on both reducing costs and identifying new sources of income (to offset the loss of new growth income). On the income side, I initiated the town’s adoption the optional state meals tax that will provide as much as $80,000 a year in new revenue to the town. On the expense side, I negotiated a lower rate on the trash pick-up program, worked with the town CFO to secure low cost electrical rates for town buildings, saved over $100,000 on the purchase of replacement water meters, and secured a grant from WMECo that installed energy efficient lighting throughout town buildings, a project that will save the town tens of thousands of dollars each year. Our budget dollars are going further than ever – one of the main reasons why the Town is now seven years into the 2007 Proposition 2-1/2 over-ride that was designed to provide revenue for a balanced budget for three years.
There are ideas for increased revenue and cost savings items that have yet to be pursued. The Select Board is examining opportunities for purchasing the street lights which are all currently leased, and following that purchase with the installation of high efficiency lighting to lower operating costs. Opportunities exist for providing town residents with added services, such as wireless internet, which can provide income to the town while saving residents in their monthly payments for high speed internet and smart phone data plans. Although our first attempt at placing a solar energy facility on our town landfill was deferred due to its marginal economics, changing solar economics may yet provide benefit the town from the installation of a passive renewable energy system on the roof of a town building or elsewhere. It’s not farfetched to imagine that one day a community based solar facility will provide low cost electricity to power the homes and vehicles of town residents.
Our ability to provide the services all our citizens want at a tax rate that all our citizens can afford is an achievable goal. With vision and follow-through we can affordably provide the funds the town needs and the services town residents want. For the past four years, working with the Select Board for the citizens of Longmeadow, I have shown that vision and follow-through. Much progress has been achieved but there is much more that is possible.
I ask for your vote on June 11th so that I can continue to work for the residents of this town to address the issues that will retain the character and community that drew each of us to Longmeadow.