Alison Genest: Keep Dracut Affordable
(Part 4 of a 7-part series)
Hi I’m Alison Genest, candidate for Dracut Selectman. I’m a Dracut native, financial services professional and political newcomer. One of the reasons that I’m running is to help keep Dracut affordable for our working families, our seniors and our children – for all of us.
In this video, I want to talk with you about a few topics related to keeping Dracut affordable, including the importance of continuing with economic development and holding the line on taxes and fees.
In the months before COVID-19 hit, I knocked on more than 2,500 doors and one message was very clear: there is no appetite for new taxes or fees in town. Considering the current state of our economy, that sentiment continues to grow.
There’s going to be some tough financial decisions ahead for the Town of Dracut. As a result of COVID-19, we’re going to be going through a period of economic recovery. And we’re going to need to strike the right balance as we move the town forward.
Right now, unemployment in Dracut is very high – it was 17% in April. So, as the town deals with economic recovery, we also need to be mindful of the fact that homeowners and business owners have also been impacted and need to recover, too, and this is no time to put more burden on them with new taxes or fees.
In addition to dealing with economic recovery, we need to continue to focus on and expand economic development. This topic has been at the forefront of discussions in recent years, and that’s a good thing!
Right now, the bulk of the town’s tax revenue -- 92% --comes from homeowners, and only 8% comes from businesses. It’s critical that we continue to expand our commercial and industrial revenue. We’ve had new businesses, like Circle Health, the Arbors and others, come to town in the last few years.
We need to build on that momentum, using tax incentive financing and exploring other ways, to keep building our commercial and industrial base. Simply put, more businesses in town mean less tax burden on our homeowners. Economic development is critical to help keep Dracut affordable.
Like many citizens, I support the Community Preservation Fund, but I don’t support increasing this tax on homeowners by 25%. I’ll be voting no the proposed increase on the June 29 ballot.
Here’s why: Right now, there’s already $5.1 million available for CP projects. When this tax increase was proposed at town meeting, there was no specific project or need driving it; it’s a completely arbitrary increase.
Again, I support the CP Fund because it’s helped maintain Dracut’s agricultural heritage and preserve our farmland. One of the parcels already preserved is the Leczynski farm founded by my grandparents on Parker Road, which is now Farmer Dave’s. We’re very fortunate to have so many working farms in Dracut and to have good, safe, local food sources, something that will become even more critical in the future.
It makes no sense to raise taxes without a specific, critical need driving the increase. If new projects come down the pipeline, there’s already more than $5 million put aside and waiting to take care of them. So it’s not a matter of needing more money or raising taxes right now; it’s a matter of prioritizing the expenditure of the funds that are already available as needs arise.
As I said earlier, this is absolutely not the time to be placing any additional burdens on town taxpayers. Based on the current economic situation, I’m not in favor of implementing new fees for waste water, trash or anything else.
Raising taxes and fees should always be the last option. We have an $84 million annual budget and we need to work with what we have, prioritize critical needs and find alternative solutions anywhere and everywhere we can.
Holding the line on taxes and fees, expanding economic development and using resources like existing CP funds strategically, we can help keep Dracut moving forward and affordable for all of us.
Thank you for watching and for giving me the opportunity to tell you where I stand on these important issues! If you have questions or would like to talk about any town-related issue, please call me at 978-957-8585. You can also email me directly from my website, AlisonLovesDracut.com, and get more information about my background, experience and positions on the issues.
I respectfully ask for your vote for Selectman on June 29. Thank you.
Next: [Part 5] Alison Genest: Strengthen planning and oversight
7 things to know about Alison Genest
[Part 1] Alison Genest: A Dracut native with deep roots in town