Chelsea Still the Most Affordable

The story of Chelsea’s turnaround has been trumpeted numerous times recently, but lost in that story is that single-family home owners in Chelsea continue to have one of the best deals going.

In statistics released by City Manager Jay Ash this week, Chelsea homeowners were shown to have some of the lowest combined property tax bills and water and sewer bills in the region.

It was a piece of news that particularly brought a smile to Ash’s face during a time when there is much to smile about in the City.

“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 $2,115 and water and sewer bill of $1,456 creates a combined cost of $3,571 for the average owner-occupant. Other communities on his list are $50 to $2,600 more costly.

“Arguably, we’re offering better services than many at indisputably low costs. That’s a good measure of the value residents get in Chelsea,” said 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 29 percent higher than ours,” said Ash. “In fact, in one case, the community measured is actually 73 percent 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.”

In addition to making Chelsea run more efficiently, including finding ways to limit expenses and raise revenues, Ash said the City Council has reduced the average single-family tax bill by $1,700 this 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,” said 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 opening in August, 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,” said Ash.

For their part, City Council President Leo Robinson said that his colleagues and he 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 individually and together to position the City for both affordability and success,” added Robinson.

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