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Barowsky promises to lower tax burden in second term


May 30, 2013
By Chris Maza

chrism@thereminder.com

LONGMEADOW — Selectman Mark Barowsky recently announced his candidacy for re-election, stating his focus in a second term would be on easing some of the burden on the town's residential taxpayers.

Barowsky said one of his primary focuses moving forward if elected would be the pursuit of a Proposition 2 1/2 underride, which would lower the tax levy limit.

"Part of the problem is the system we have, which is designed to continue to compound and increase taxes," he said. "I'm going to be fighting for an underride to keep those taxes in check. Even if it is by a quarter of a percent, it would be a benefit to the taxpayers."

Barowsky recognized that an underride would "cause pressure" for the budgets of the town departments, but said it was necessary.

He explained that he supported the zero-percent increase budgets for all departments, including the school department, in an effort to curb the growing tax burden a bit.

"What made me support that was the fact that we have the new high school debt service hitting our tax bills," he said. "This past January one set of additional taxes were added and there will be more. With such an increase I felt that if we eliminated some of the increases on top of that, it would give the people a break."

That measure was defeated, however, at the Annual Town Meeting when residents awarded an additional $353,000 to the schools.

"We are now in a deficit budget and we have to find a way to make up that deficit," he said. "I think we are very lucky this year that we have, I believe, $698,000 in free cash that will be certified in the fall with which we can underwrite the budget, but our goal was to use that money to fund capital projects."

Barowsky added that he would also like to see greater cooperation between the Board of Selectmen and the School Committee.

"Since my first year on the Finance Committee, I have tried to bridge the gap with the School Committee," he said. "I would love to see us acting for the town as a whole. I would love to see us band together and move in the right direction."

Barowsky also pointed to capital projects as a need, but said the town would have to be careful as to how it paid for necessary improvements.

"I'm a guy who likes to pay with cash and would like to see the town pay for capital projects a small amount of debt and a large amount of cash," he said. "When we bond these projects, those bonding costs get added to the tax bill and if we bond water and sewer projects, those costs get added to those bills."

Barowsky said he would also revisit an idea he saw as an opportunity for additional revenue for the town — development of the property near the town's water tower.

"We have 21 acres of land that I would like to see opened up to 55 and older community housing," he said. "I walked the property last year and I think there could be a considerable number of units. With that, we could gain in two ways; we would get a large injection of cash from the sale of the land and the yearly tax revenue would be an additional $600,000 to $700,000. That's huge for us."

In his previous term, Barowsky said he was successful in aiding the creation of a system in which department heads appear more frequently before the Board of Selectmen.

"Department heads are now providing updates regularly," he said. "If a project is lagging, now we will be aware of the issues."

He also said he successfully completed one of his first-term goals in addressing the issue of tree stumps left over when trees were removed following the October 2011 snowstorm.

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