Editorial — New Westport school a good deal

Posted 2/22/18

Some places, fear of high taxes and big debt would be good reason to hesitate before voting yes on a near-$100 million school bond.

But in Westport, property tax alarm is a bit more difficult to …

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Editorial — New Westport school a good deal

Posted

Some places, fear of high taxes and big debt would be good reason to hesitate before voting yes on a near-$100 million school bond.

But in Westport, property tax alarm is a bit more difficult to swallow.

By Massachusetts standards — by standards lots of towns including Tiverton next door — property taxes in Westport are a bargain. A recent calculation put Westport’s average tax bill at 12th lowest among the Commonwealth’s 351 cities and towns. Cross the town/state line into Tiverton and the average bill is nearly 40 percent higher.

There is nothing wrong with striving to keep the property tax rate as low as possible. It often seems that tax hike protests are loudest in towns where rates are lowest — Westport and Little Compton for instance. To their credit, that vigilance may be a reason that rates stay low (in Little Compton’s case, not having a high school helps).

The problem with the property tax argument in the Westport new-school debate is that the town faces a big school bill one way or another. Its middle school is poisoned by PCBs and its high school is outdated. Backers of the school plan say it makes much more sense to tackle both issues now rather than dumping more money into these lost causes — far better now while the state is willing to help pay for a project it has praised as highly efficient. Delay can only add to the price (witness the town’s new police station).

Yes, this is a lot of debt, but by proponents’ calculations, Westport will only climb up the state property tax ranking by one or two positions as a result of passage. Even if they are wrong and it leaps 20 or 30 places, Westport would still be a most attractive place to live from a property tax perspective.

If a tax hike is unavoidable, the pain would be eased by knowledge that the town would emerge with a school system in which students can thrive and of which townspeople can be proud.

This school opportunity is one Westport cannot afford to miss.

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Mike Rego

Mike Rego has worked at East Bay Newspapers since 2001, helping the company launch The Westport Shorelines. He soon after became a Sports Editor, spending the next 10-plus years in that role before taking over as editor of The East Providence Post in February of 2012. To contact Mike about The Post or to submit information, suggest story ideas or photo opportunities, etc. in East Providence, email mrego@eastbaymediagroup.com.