Gardner News: Tax impact tool is touted

Towns prepare for override vote

By Doneen Durling

ASHBURNHAM A Proposition 2 ½ tax over­ride is a forever commitment for taxpayers, and some people considering whether to vote for the proposal for one to support a prioritized budget on June 20 are trying to nail down a final number of what it means to them.

Natalie Nelson came to the Board of Selectmen on Monday to explain an online tool that is available to use to calculate the impact on residents of both Ashburnham and Westminster for an override for the school district.

“A Support Our Children and Schools member has created what we feel is a very effective tool,” said Nelson.

There is an effort to get the news into the community. Nelson will be at the Ashburnham Senior Center on Thursday at 11 a.m. with Superintendent Gary Mazzola to answer any questions about the school budget.

She said her organization, Support Our Children and Schools, believes strongly in face-to-face discussion.

“We believe when we learn face-to-face about the facts and have an opportunity to ask questions, there is greater learning and less rumors, and together people can find a solution,” she said.

Nelson explained that the group is looking for long-term solutions and is putting pressure on the state because of chronic underfunding.

The group, after attending many meetings and looking at data, believes the only short-term solution for having fewer classes with 30 or more students, and cuts to programs, is an override.

“That is why we have joined the School Committee in their override effort,” said Nelson.

There has been a lot of feedback indicating that an override is difficult for those living on really tight budgets.

“We want to do what we can to support Ashburnham residents in terms of how the override would affect (their) budget and also get the word out about tax relief programs because there are tax relief programs for seniors in Ashburnham,” said Nelson.

There is a prioritized budget calculator tool on the Support Our Children and Schools website that will show the impact of the override for taxpayers in both Ashburnham and Westminster. By going to ashwestsocs.org, taxpayers can select which town their property is located, type in the property’s assessed value, and will see the impact of the prioritized budget proposed by the school district.

According to the online calculator, someone with a $200,000 home in Westminster would see their taxes increase from $3,748 a year (or $312.33 per month) to $3,878 ($323.17 per month), a difference of $130.08 a year (or $10.84 per month.)

Surprisingly, Ashburnham would see a greater increase. According to the calculations, someone with an assessed home value of $200,000 would see an increase from $4,558 (or $379.83 per month) to $4,768, (or $397.33 per month). The difference due to override would be $210 per year (or $17.50 per month).

Nelson said that she will help anyone that comes on Thursday to navigate the website if needed. She said the calculator also will search town records for the assessed value if someone is unsure of the assessed value of their home.

“If you type in your name or address, it will bring up for you your assessed value,” she said.

Nelson said that there is a hope people might be able to see the impact on their own budget to help them make the decision. Nelson said the impact to her own budget would be $10.89.

“In my budget, it is a lot. Everything counts so I am very sympathetic to how much … even one or two dollars makes a difference when you cut everything. At the same time, just for my home value, it is worth it to me to cut more so that I can cover that $10.89 per month so that not only my kids, but all the kids in Ashburnham Westminster can have an education that supports their learning.”

Nelson said that more than 250 people have already used the calculator. The towns will vote by ballot on June 20 to either pass or reject the override for the school district.