Friday, October 28, 2011

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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Something to Consider

[click here to read article]
There was an article by Esther J. Cepeda in this morning's Springfield Republican on the Op-Ed page that should be required reading for the School Superintendent, IT Director, School Committee and Select Board members.  Town residents should read it as well to make sure that our limited financial resources are not squandered on high priced technology in our schools.

The closing message in this editorial "old-school methods such as high-quality instruction and hands-on experimentation must take precedence over the theory that today's children aren't capable of learning without the aid of fancy electronic devices".

On a related note, I watched a CBS- 60 Minutes special this past Sunday (click here to view video) in which the use of i-Pads showed great promise in the development of improved communication skills and the education of autistic children.  

The Longmeadow School Department should consider deployment of the new i-Pad computer technology for specialized needs rather than broad implementation in all classrooms.

Tax Relief Sought for Senior Citizens

On October 20 a group of about 75 Longmeadow town residents (mostly senior citizens) listened to John Bowen, Chairman, Longmeadow Council on Aging at the Adult Center present the details of a new tax relief measure.  This measure is being drafted to help provide some tax relief for low income senior citizens in Longmeadow.

In attendance were Mark Gold- Chair, Select Board chair, John Fitzgerald- Member, School Committee Jonathan Fein- Chair, Board of Assessors and Brian Ashe- MA State Representative.  Below is a video clip of the presentation and Q/A provided by LCTV.

Bowen explained that the towns of Hamilton and Sudbury recently passed a tax relief measure (Means Tested Property Tax Relief Program) to supplement the existing statewide Circuit Breaker program.

Under the Circuit Breaker program (click to view details) property owners and renters who meet income limits and other eligibility limits can receive a check from the state up to a maximum of $980 (2011).  Home owners may claim a refund if they paid more than 10% of their total income for real estate taxes, including water and sewer debt charges. Renters can count 25% of their rent as real estate tax payments.

Currently there are 353 Longmeadow residents that qualify for the Massachusetts circuit breaker, not all are receiving the maximum amount.

The Sudbury tax relief measure which Mr. Bowen's group plans to model provides a refund from the town of Longmeadow for property owners who qualify for the Circuit Breaker program + property taxes of greater than $5000. The refund as proposed are as follows:
  • Up to $980 for town residents with incomes of $25K or less 
  • Up to $500 for town residents with income of $25K- $35K 
  • $0 for town residents with incomes greater than $35K.
According to Mr. Bowen this tax relief measure would cost the town approximately $150,000 - $175,000/ year.

The Town of Sudbury appears to be very proactive in providing guidance and assistance to senior citizens in these difficult economic times.  Here is a link to Tax Relief Guide for Sudbury Seniors a publication that Longmeadow should consider publishing as well.

The COA group plans to work with the Select Board, Board of Assessors and others to move forward with this tax relief proposal with tentative plans to include it as an article on the Annual Town Meeting warrant in early May.  Mark Gold suggested that because this property tax refund may end up as a budget line item that work needs to move forward quickly since the FY2013 budget planning process is about to start.

Note:  The Sudbury experience with their tax relief measure included a Town Meeting warrant article, approval by voters at a town-wide election and then approval by the Massachusetts Attorney General's office.