According to the Massachusetts DOR, Harvard’s property taxes increased 98 percent in 10 years (2000-2010), placing us in the ignominious position of the highest percentage tax increases among 10 surrounding towns, including Concord. Home prices in Harvard have declined 25 percent. Attempts at overrides in 2008 and 2010 failed. The disruption caused and the concurrent onslaught of the national financial maelstrom is still all too painful to recall. Dozens of town volunteers and employees shared the pain riding that storm. Thousands of hours of collective hard work by many helped us into smoother yet still troubled financial waters. Interest rates remain low for that very reason. Rhonda Sprague understands this all too well. As a 40-year resident, successful local business owner, dedicated volunteer and staunch advocate of our schools, she felt the pain and truly understands the challenges we confronted.
Yet here we are on the eve of annual Town Meeting trying to convince ourselves we want major renovations and expansions to two town buildings. Proponents downplay the $9.47 million sticker shock (excluding the Old Library at an estimated $2 million). They claim it is all affordable by increasing debt burdens at minimal cost. Yet taxes will go up by 23.4 percent over five years. Proponents assert this is our entire fault for neglecting maintenance. That is, of course, partly true. But, going from zero to $4 million for Town Hall alone is simply preposterous. Going from $2.25 million to $5.4 million for Hildreth House expansion in one year is jaw dropping by any measure.
Town census counts affirm our small town is not growing. School enrollment is down and declining in line with demographics across the commonwealth. Our growing tax burden falls on homeowners with no respite in sight.
One person has distinguished herself throughout this maelstrom. One of two candidates fully understands the delicate financial balance needed to keep our schools strong, our roads repaired and essential services intact. Rhonda Sprague gets it. I offer my unequivocal support for Rhonda Sprague as our next member of our Board of Selectmen. Please join me in voting for Rhonda.