Chelsea Still the Most Affordable

March 17, 2011
By

Special to the Chelsea Record

City Manager Jay Ash measures success in many ways.  Announcing that Chelsea remains the most affordable place in the area to own and occupy a single-family house is one that particularly brings a smile to his face.

“Chelsea remains the region’s most affordable community to own and live in,” boasted Ash.  “This is a goal that the City Council and I continue to make, and it sure feels good to deliver on it once again.”

Ash based his comments on the “Municipal Costs Affordability Index” he compiles annually to look at the cost of property taxes on a single family home for an owner occupant and the average water and sewer bill in a community.  In Chelsea’s case, the average tax bill of $2,091 and water and sewer bill of $1,354 creates a combined cost of $3,445 for the average owner-occupant.  That next least expensive community in the region is $800 more expensive than Chelsea.

“Arguably, we’re offering better services than many at indisputably lowest cost.  That’s a good measure of the value residents get in Chelsea,” stressed Ash.

Ash acknowledged that taxes and water and sewer charges continue to climb.  However, he said residents should compare what it costs and what they receive in Chelsea to that in the study group of Boston, Everett, Lynn, Malden, Revere, Somerville and Winthrop to see if they are really getting “good value” for their tax dollars.

“The average of those communities is a bill that is 34% higher than ours here.  In fact, in one case, the community measured is actually 72% more expensive to live.  Given all we have going on and offer, I do think it’s remarkable we’re doing as much as we are without relying on local taxpayers for substantial tax increases,” claimed Ash.

Ash declined to disclose communities by name, saying his study was not meant to bring focus on those communities.  He instead revealed in a study presented to the City Council a list of communities identified as “A through G”.  City G, the closest to Chelsea in terms of overall expense, is 23% more costly according to Ash’s index.  City A, on the other end of the spectrum, is that whopping 72% more costly as Ash reported.

“It’s important that we measure ourselves in various ways to see if we’re meeting and beating reasonable expectations.  With our efforts to hold back spending, promote economic development and be generally more ‘entrepreneurial,’ the City Council and I are finding ways to limit expenses and raise revenues to make our City work,” explained Ash.

Referring back to his comments crediting the City Council for its contributions in keeping Chelsea affordable, Ash said that the Council’s annual vote to provide lower residential taxes makes a significant difference.  According to figures he provided, that Council vote will save the average single family homeowner $1,629 this fiscal year.

“The Council continues to do the right thing for homeowners, making sure that every dollar is spent wisely and frugally here and adopting favorable tax policy that reduces the property taxes of those who own and reside in Chelsea,” credited Ash.

Ash says another annual goal he shares with the City Council is to avoid the need for a Proposition 2 ½ override.  An override, if adopted by voters, adds additional property tax burden to taxpayers.

“We’ve found ways of rebidding contracts, like the trash contract, to save us millions.  We’ve analyzed financial markets and made the right choices when to refinance old debt, also saving us millions.  And when you see the Marriott breaking ground in June, you’ll know that economic development activity that is stagnant elsewhere but very alive and well here has the potential of generating even more for us long into the future.

“Each step of the way, the City Council has been a valuable contributor to those successes, and the results speak for themselves,” commented Ash.

For their part, City Council President Marilyn Vega Torres said that her colleagues and she are very aware of the need to be both supportive of Ash’s efforts and creative in the way the Council acts.

“First off, we’ve had to say no to the temptation to spend away all that we’ve been able to generate through our financial stewardship.  Secondly, and as important, we’ve had to work together to identify, fully explore, implement and track initiatives that can improve our bottom line, thereby making our ability to offer City services financially easier.

“The financial times are troubling, but that doesn’t mean that good financial management and political leadership can’t eventually win the day.  That’s exactly what’s happening here in Chelsea, and I’m proud of the work our City Council and Manager Ash are doing to position the City for both affordability and success,” concluded Vega Torres.


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