Over the past year, it has been hard to figure exactly where Selectman Bowers is coming from. At this week’s Selectmen’s meeting he spelled it out. Take a look at the video at about 2:12:00 into the session.
He states plainly that he would be OK with a tax rate of $15. Think about it, that would mean that the average lakefront home would pay around $45,000 per year in taxes. Not long ago these same homes were paying a quarter of that. I recently commented here on the reasons why we have a relatively low combined tax rate, how our town rate is average, and why it needs to stay low.
If you back up a little in the video, you will see where he also feels that he is unfairly paying for the sewer system because he isn’t connected. Does he even know what’s going on? He makes a big deal out of the fact that he paid thousands of dollars for his septic system. I’m on the sewer system. I have no choice. Voters throughout the town long ago voted to compel my property to connect, even though it had a working septic system that probably cost as much as his. I also have a septic tank which must be pumped as often as his, and I have an effluent pump that I recently had to replace. As well, my property was assessed a betterment fee when it was hooked up, so all in all it has cost more than his arrangement, and I have the privilege of paying sewer fees to dispose of what I could just as well have pumped to a leaching field.
The issue is water quality in the lake as well as having many users to pay for a system to support what is needed for a functional downtown, schools, and hospital. Users pay for the operation, everyone pays for the infrastructure. I’d be fine with connecting my leaching field back up, stop paying sewer fees, and reduce the town’s sewer load. Make a motion Mr. Bowers.
Intertwined in his speech, were constant references to Town Hall. He seems to lament the fact that people are willing to spend on everything but that. Maybe he will realize at some point that it’s not about spending the money, it’s about spending it wisely. So maybe we don’t end up with a $15 tax rate.
What some BOS members forget is to look at the census data regarding median and average age of Wolfeboro citizens and the same data for income. You could argue that lake front folks can afford, but not like, those higher taxes. But there are a number of Wolfeboro residents on fixed incomes that fit them into the federal definition of “near poor”. Beset with rising energy costs, rising health care costs, rising food costs they are in a poor position to pay increasing real estate taxes. This is then compounded by the failure of the Town Manager and the BOS to have a prolonged discussion and sales pitch for projects. Somehow they assume just talking on Channel 25 video coverage and the odd public hearing is sufficient. I have long argued that other communities, smaller than Wolfeboro, do outreach on a continuing basis to actually explain and “sell” their agenda. I have made the suggestion many times to the powers that be that they could use a column once a month in the Grunter and/or the Town website to keep an ongoing dialogue but it was just summarily dismissed. My opinion is that the TM is not interested in more work and some on the BOS say why bother. And the continuing saga of such items as the sewer project, which never seem to reach a good and final resolution yet cost millions, leaves a bad taste in the mouth of folks.
I agree with John in that the impact of higher taxes is relative and as much a burden for fixed income or low-income families as high end property owners. My point in previous posts is that we can reach a point where higher taxes reduces high end property values and creates a compound problem for others as the tax rate must be increased further to compensate for decreased town-wide valuation. I would argue that we are already there. Moultonborough has a lower tax rate than us, yet has done an excellent job of renewing and maintaining their infrastructure. That has to factor into any decision to buy or build a high end home where the taxes will be thirty or forty thousand. One contractor that I know hasn’t built a lakefront home in Wolfeboro for years but has had five in Alton and Tuftonboro.