Every tax is a pay cut.  Every tax cut is a pay raise.
Citizens for Limited Taxation

Plowing Church Lots - A Bad Business Model
Harold J. Wolfe February 2, 2003
It has come to our attention that the town of Framingham plows the parking lots of some 23 or so churches at the taxpayers expense and at overtime rates.  I do not know how many church lots we have in Framingham, but I'm speculating more than 35.  This web page shows 39 if you choose Churches under All Categories on their index.  This would seem to imply that not all religions are equal or some are merely more equal than others.

Now let me recap this and see if I can understand this.

  • We are in a fiscal crisis, and
  • we've just increased the commercial tax rates, and
  • churches do not pay taxes, and
  • we plow church lots.
Clearly,this is a flawed business model. Shouldn't we plow commercial lots since they actually pay taxes.  How the heck are we ever going to make serious money around here if we just throw it away on institutions that don't pay taxes.

Spare me the line that churches are used as shelters so their lots have to be kept open.  Can anyone ever remember the last time a church was used as a shelter?

This explains the lousy plowing I see this winter.

Log entries
Our town manager responds by saying:

I recognize that these email groups, along with other forums will be discussing various policy and program decisions the Town has to make over the next few months.  I think that discussion is helpful.  We certainly need to reduce our costs and therefore our services so any consensus on what we can do without is helpful.

The parochial school busing issue is one that is required by state law.  We can not opt out of that if we want to, so that is a dead issue.

The snow plowing of churches is a most interesting issue.  It is no doubt costly, we can not even quantify it in $$$ very easily, but it is something that we have discussed for a while now.  The Town has provided this service for many years, as long as I can remember.  I have been quick to discontinue many practices that have happened here that appear to be not reasonable.  I am not quick to do things because we have always done it if they appear incorrect.  However, I will plead guilty in this case, but with some good reason.  This issue has been discussed at Town Meeting several times, be it through resolutions or motions to reduce money to reflect the cost.  Town Meeting has always decided to leave it alone.  Likely the time has come to reexamine this policy, and likely we should discontinue it.  Internally we have been trying to quantify it so we can produce intelligent data to discuss, as it has become an operational burden for us this winter.  Clearly we are not going to stop it today, as that would not be fair, next winter may be reasonable.  I think everyone should be aware however, that there is a substantial amount of support for it within the Town, it may be waning, but it is there.  There is some precedent for discontinuation, last year I found that many churches were receiving trash collection, which is against our policy and we did stop that.  There was no objection, they understood.

In terms of plowing it will not save actually $$$ in the appropriation, but it will stretch our budget.  We don't appropriate an overly generous amount anyway, and if we decrease it we lose our statutory right to deficit spend.  Snowplowing is the only account we can do this in.

George King

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