Chelsea Still the Most Affordable

City Manager Jay Ash announced this week that Chelsea remains the most affordable place in the area to own and occupy a single-family home, as has been the case for the last several years.

“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 $2,165 and water and sewer bill of $1,456 creates a combined cost of $3,621 for the average owner-occupant, up 1.4 percent from 2012. Other communities in his comparison list are $900 to $3,600 more costly.

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

Ash acknowledged that taxes and water and sewer charges can continue to climb. However, he points out, for several of the last years residential taxes actually went down in Chelsea, and water and sewer charges have been frozen now going into the third year. He suggests that a comparison not year over year, but to a study group of Boston, Everett, Lynn, Malden, Revere, Somerville and Winthrop is the best way for local homeowners to see if they are really getting “good value” for their tax dollars.

“The average of those communities is a bill that is 41 percent higher than ours here,” he said. “In fact, in one case, the community measured is actually 72 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 $2,200 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 and the City Council continually stress the need to balance budgets and to avoid the need for a Proposition 2 ½ override. An override, if adopted by voters, adds additional property tax burden onto taxpayers.

“It’s a top priority,” said Councillor Calvin Brown, regarding the avoidance of a Proposition 2½ override.  “We direct many efforts at doing the financial right things so that we don’t have to ask taxpayers for more, and it’s great to do so while continuing to provide them with more services that meet more of their needs.”

“We talk regularly about rebidding contracts or finding other ways to reduce costs, like the effort the City just made to save money through energy efficiency,” Councillor Brian Hatleberg added.  “We’re constantly looking at financial markets to manage what debt we have, while being careful not to add debt when there are other ways to pay for improvements. And, all along, we’re able to make those improvements, like repaving Washington Avenue, or enhance services, like having the largest police force we’ve ever had here.”

“We’ve also had to say no to the temptation to spend away all that we’ve been able to generate through our financial stewardship, and we continue to work together to identify, fully explore, implement and track initiatives that can improve our bottom line, thereby keeping our costs back to taxpayers in check, making our ability to offer City services financially easier,” said Councillor Leo Robinson.

Ash said the checks and balances between his administration and the City Council result in so much success, including keeping Chelsea affordable and financial well managed.

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

“The financial times are difficult, 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,” boasted Robinson.

While City officials are proud of balancing budgets, maintaining and enhancing services and receiving awards, like the Government Finance Officers Association’s award for auditing and a recent bond rating upgrading from Standard & Poor’s, they collectively suggest the end result: better overall performance at the lowest costs in the region, gives them more to cheer.

“It’s just another reason for us all to be proud of what we are accomplishingin Chelsea,” said Brown.

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