I humbly ask for your vote on Tuesday, Nov. 7, so that we may continue making Westfield an even more desirable place to live, visit and raise a family. I am proud of the town’s progress under my leadership and that of my colleagues on the town council. These achievements are numerous, real and concrete and have manifested themselves in the beautification of the town, the receipt of national accolades, our continued Triple A bond rating and the increase in our property values. Our policies are working.
Over the coming weeks, I will outline my platform in detail. (You can also read the entire Platform which was first published online in mid-April at www.andy2017.com). Specifically, I will address the ways in which I will continue to: manage the portion of property taxes under the town’s control prudently and proficiently; exercise successful and sustainable fiscal management; support the downtown and the Westfield business community; enhance our parks, recreational facilities and public spaces; address development and municipal land use issues; and strive for balance.
First, taxes. As a taxpaying resident, I know the plight of the Westfield taxpayer. That is why, from the start, I pledged to “do more with less” to control costs and “pay as you go” to minimize debt, and to do so without reducing municipal services but, in fact, enhancing them wherever possible. I have kept this promise. This policy of cost containment continues with the 2017 budget. For example, salaries and wages in the aggregate are below 2008 levels and the debt service represents a very low six percent of the 2017 operating budget.
As you may know, the town does not levy or retain all of the property taxes it is required by law to collect. In fact, the town only controls approximately 16 percent of the tax bill. Working with such a small piece of the pie is challenging, but we have managed to keep tax increases as low as possible. For example, in 2015, the increase was 1.9 percent; in 2016 the increase was 1.7 percent; this year, the increase is down to 1.43 percent. These percentages are inclusive of all the allowable exemptions under the cap law, meaning they are actually, not artificially, that low.
We have managed to keep the tax increases low through prudent planning and smart fiscal management (as recognized year after year by Standard and Poor’s), which includes, among other policies, shared services agreements with neighboring towns. For example, Westfield is the lead agency for a regional health department. In that role, Westfield serves seven other towns to provide health services such as restaurant and pool inspections and immunizations. The participating towns pay Westfield for these services. Therefore, much of the Health Department’s personnel salaries are covered by other municipalities instead of our taxpayers.
I also believe that it’s important for our residents to be informed as to how their hard-earned money is spent. That is why I mail out a letter to all residents every year with the tax bill and publish the budget presentation online.
If re-elected, I promise to continue to manage the portion of property taxes under the town’s control prudently and efficiently.
Mayor Andy Skibitsky