Framingham Taxpayers Association urged citizens to take action against "runaway spending" and to hold Framingham leaders accountable for the huge tax increase and the questionable assessments, specifically commercial properties.
Close to 100 people filled a room at the main Framingham library Saturday afternoon in what the
A majority of the audience was senior citizens. Also in the audience was Selectman Ginger Esty, Rep. Chris Walsh and s and more than a dozen Town Meeting members.
Town Meeting member and 12 year resident Matt Calder, a professional statistician, explained how the residential assessments went up 3% and the commercial assessments went down 6%. "That's the source of our problem," he told the audience.
He said the real issue is that the formula used by the assessors is not available.
"If the formula doesn't exist, that's a problem," said Calder. "If it does exist, we should be able to see it."
Using a series of slides, Calder tried to explain why the assessments went either up or down "make no sense mathematically."
Retired economics professor Nick Sanchez told the audience school spending has outpaced inflation in recent years. Sanchez, a former Framingham Finance Committee member and a candidate for selectmen last year, said teacher's salaries have increased 4.45% and inflation only 2.5%. He also said full-time staff at the Framingham Public Schools has increased from 1,113 to 1,126 to 1,141, and yet there are only 80 more students since 2,000."
"As Mr. (Robert) Bolles has been saying, we need to freeze expenditures in this town," said Sanchez.
Sanchez said Town Meeting is not provided the information it needs to make an informed decision on the budget, plus the budget is discussed very late at Town meeting sessions. For that reason, Sanchez intends to file a citizen petition to change that. He wants to mandate that the budget be first on the agenda, when Town Meeting members are not tired.
Town Meeting member Joel Winett told the audience he wants the legislature to change the state's assessment process, and was collecting signatures for a citizen's petition.
"I'm hear to recommend we find solutions," said Winett
Winett informed the audience there are 40 vacancies in Town Meeting. "That's 20%."
Association president Enzo Rotatori and others encouraged audience members to run for Town Meeting and to stop the "runaway spending."
"We’ve got to stop spending money, and we’ve got to live within our means," said Town Meeting member Larry Schmeidler.
Precinct 11 Town Meeting member Bajakian said it's time the school budget, which is 60% of the total Framingham budget, not be voted as one-line item, as opposed to line-by-line with the municipal side.
“This is the start of a process — we’re going to continue to work to address the issues raised here,” said Town meeting member Karl Thober, who is treasurer for the Association.
Rotatori, a former Town Meeting member, also echoed Bajakian that school spending needs to be looked at.
Rotatori and the Association plans to propose a budget that is zero-based and no more than 2.5% increase
While Calder took most of the questions after the presentation in regards to how the commercial assessments could be so low and why the residential assessments were so high, Town Meeting member Jim Rizoli of Precinct 14 offered some insights into this year's assessment process.
Rizoli told the audience 1,100 people filed for an abatement.
"And do you know how many commercial property owners filed for an abatement?" he asked the audience "Every one. Even if their property value goes down" they still apply. It's how they do business.
Rotatori said commercial assessments and why they fell so significantly will be the focus of the next Framingham Taxpayers Association meeting.
Editor's Note: Corrected an inaccurate attribution in the article at 10:20 a.m.