Upcoming spending on major capital improvement projects in Somerville includes $137 million for a new high school, $72 million for sewer improvements, and $50 million to make a required payment to the state for the Green Line extension—a mandate that many say amounted to extortion. These investments, while substantial, are critical to the future functioning of our city.
Given these priorities, wise fiscal management and long-term planning are ever more important to keep Somerville the place that we love. In fact, many of Somerville’s public buildings and core infrastructure need to be renovated or replaced. This will require hundreds of millions in additional funding beyond what is already in the pipeline.
Meanwhile, Somerville is over-reliant on residential property tax revenues, and homeowners are burdened by increasing taxes and fees. Residents on fixed incomes and working families are getting squeezed out. Therefore, it is critically important that we understand how all current and future debt obligations, investments, and resulting revenues fit together to form a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.
As your Alderman, I’m working to ensure that we do not mortgage our future and overburden residents. I supported aggressive new zoning in Union Square that will result in major new commercial development, which pays 160% of the residential property tax rate. This will generate hundreds of millions of dollars in new tax revenues that will help pay for both capital projects as well as core city programs and services, without further burdening residential property taxpayers as well as tenants in the form of higher rents.
Going forward, I will continue to support zoning that incentivizes a strong commercial tax base. I will also advocate that Somerville create a transparent and comprehensive capital improvement plan that assesses and prioritizes our short- and long-term needs, conservatively projects costs, and ensures that we do not take on obligations without revenues sufficient to cover them. This will help us make sure that those projects most important to the community are not left out.