The following letter to the editor courtesy of Councillor Paul Prevey is in response to an editorial published by the Salem News on Aug. 29.
Myself and five of my other colleagues recently voted against putting the Community Preservation Act (CPA) on the ballot this November.
As noted in the editorial, this initiative was affirmatively voted on by the City Council in 2007, however it was ultimately rejected by the voters at the ballot box.
It’s now being put forward again by the Administration, however many of us on the Council that supported its placement on the 2007 ballot believe that this initiative had its opportunity in 2007 but the proponents are back for round two.
What the editorial alleges is that somehow the Council denied the voters the right to vote on this. Quite the contrary. The proponents of this initiative did not like the answer the voters of Salem gave in 2007 so they decided that they will put it forward again in the hopes that their coordinated efforts to turn out a more sympathetic electorate will ultimately prevail.
Interestingly, when the Council held its special meeting to take up this matter, several proponents who addressed the Council advised that they did not want this effort on the ballot via voter petition. Instead, the proponents urged the Council to "show leadership" on this issue, and so we did. The majority of the Council decided that it was not in the best interest of the taxpaying residents of Salem to have this on the ballot for a second time.
Unlike 2007, we are in a much worse financial situation in Salem, the Commonwealth and throughout the U.S. People’s homes are being foreclosed on, they continue to lose their jobs or have been unable to find a new one, and in general, are desperately struggling to maintain their financial obligations and make ends meet.
As city councilors, we constantly hear stories throughout the City of residents trying to stay afloat in a sea of financial turmoil. To suggest that the average increase in the surcharge tax would be "only $30" annually is to belittle those who are struggling to stay on top of all of the fees, taxes, fines, charges, surcharges, surfines and rate increases which have consistently ballooned over the years.
Thirty dollars a year, in and of its self, is very minimal, but when you add it to every other increase, it becomes a crushing financial burden for so many people. The cumulative effect is truly a death by a thousand paper cuts; some people have the blood to withstand it, while other are quickly being bled dry.
The editorial asserts that the Council’s stated objection to the tax increase is "not credible" given that it’s a small tax increase. If trying to stem the increase in taxes is not a credible argument to stand on its own, then I know of no other argument which is worthwhile to be made.
Taxes do not appear overnight. They grow ever so slowly over time and sprout new roots which slowly entangle the taxpayer. The steady increase in taxes and the creation of new ones has far out paced people’s income levels to the point that they cannot keep up. And to what end? So that we in government can say we accomplished a large list of items which will serve only the people who can continue to afford to live here in Salem.
It is true that there are many items and projects throughout the City that would benefit from the enactment of the CPA. On its face, the benefits offered through the adoption of the CPA seem attractive and are designed to target specific needs each individual community has with respect to historical preservation, open space/park & recreation and affordable housing.
Unfortunately, enough is never enough when it comes to the insatiable thirst of government bent on extracting more tax payer money on the backs of the already tax-strapped homeowner. At some point, we have to look at the cold economic reality that we find ourselves in and exercise restraint in wanting more at a cost which will ultimately far exceed an additional $2.50 per month, because we know it will not stop there.
Paul C Prevey
Councillor Ward 6