To the Editor;
Keeping Marion Affordable
People ask me why I sometimes say Marion is in financial trouble. The answer is we are becoming increasingly unaffordable for many of our citizens. Not only are our real estate taxes going up, but one only has to look at the sharp increases in our recent water and sewer bills to understand my concern. Historically, Marion has resisted new growth and actively pursued land conservation. There is a price to that.
The Town has existing properties paying taxes, which are called the “tax base.” New growth expands the tax base and thus raises new tax revenues in addition to the 2.% increase permitted Prop 2.5.
Marion has not been growth friendly. Getting new projects approved takes years. And, we have bylaws with technical requirements impossible to meet (Open Space Development District) or that are cost prohibitive (Inclusionary Housing).
It is worse. We actually have been shrinking our tax base by conserving land through either temporary or permanent conservation restrictions. These properties pay little or no taxes.
The 2017 Master Plan reported the following land uses based on the Assessor Database: 37% residential, 3% commercial and industrial, 31% tax exempt (the Town, Town-owned conservation land, churches, land trusts, and schools), and 22% temporary protected land (Chapter 61, 61A, and 61B)
These numbers tell us that 40% of Marion (37% residential and 3% commercial/industrial) essentially pays 100% of the cost of running the Town. The report goes on to say that 4,477 acres or 49% of the Town’s total 9,105 acres is protected land of which 3,091 acres are permanently protected. That’s a remarkable accomplishment, but can we afford to continue to conserve land and shrink our tax base?
The Marion Open Space Acquisition Committee will have four articles on the Warrant at the Special Town Meeting on November 5 requesting citizens to approve putting a total of 43 acres under conservation easements. Three of the articles are current land owners gifting the Town conservation restrictions on their land. The fourth article provides for the Town to buy a conservation restriction on three parcels totaling 34 acres. The Town will lose tax revenue from all these parcels either from them being reduced in value or going off the tax rolls.
The Town cannot stop private entities such as the Sippican Land Trust from taking properties off the tax roll using private funding. Marion voters, however, need to decide whether MOSAC should be spending the Town’s money (Community Preservation funds) to take more land off the tax rolls further shrinking our tax base.
John P. Waterman, Marion Resident and Selectman
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