Bedford tax groups split over spending

BEDFORD — Two Bedford citizens’ groups yesterday criticized a call by two tax-watch organizations for voters to reject four major school district articles, saying such a move will only lead to a tax increase.

Representatives of Taxpayers for Quality Education and the Bedford High Coalition also said it is “unfortunate” that the Bedford Taxpayers Association has severed all ties with the two organizations.

The Bedford Taxpayers Association and the Bedford Chapter of Citizens for a Sound Economy issued statements recently denouncing the efforts of a small group of voters to amend articles at the Feb. 5 deliberative session. The two groups are urging voters to cast “no” votes on the major articles at the March 9 election.

The Bedford CSE chapter is advocating a no vote on all articles. And in a Wednesday press release, the Bedford taxpayers group urged voters to reject four articles: Article 2, the $14 million intermediate school; Article 3, $30 million Bedford High School; Article 5, $1.8 million deficit appropriation; and Article 12, the $39.7 million operating budget.

“I’m quite surprised they are advocating a huge tax increase,” said Terry Wolf, president of Taxpayers for Quality Education. “They claim to be concerned about reasonable and stable spending and lower taxes, and the no votes won’t achieve either.”

Wolf provided figures comparing yes and no votes on articles 3, 5, 6, 8 and 12, using a $300,000 house in Bedford as an example of the tax impact.

If all of the articles are approved, the tax rate would be $2.89 per $1,000 of assessed property and the tax increase on the home would be $867.

If the articles are rejected, the tax rate would be $4.64 and the tax increase would total $1,392, a difference of $525 in the first year, she said.

Roy Stewart, president of the BTA, outlined the organization’s decision to call for a no vote on the four articles and to sever ties with BHC and TQE in the Wednesday release. Stewart said the BTA made the decisions based on the “irresponsible actions taken by leaders and members of BHC and TQE” at the deliberative session.

Stewart cited the action of Bedford Town Council Chairman Bill Greiner at the deliberative session to author an amendment to Article 4, which called for signing a 20-year high school tuition contract with Manchester. The amendment made Article 4 contingent on the passage of Article 3. This amendment rendered Article 4 meaningless because the same provisions of Article 4 are carried in Article 3, members of the BTA and CSE said.

Before BTA severed its ties, the three organizations worked together to reach a compromise in recent months on proposals to build a $30 million high school and a 20-year tuition agreement with Manchester. Both articles passed in a November election, but the results were not valid because the required turnout of 50 percent wasn’t reached.

“We continue to support the compromise that we put together with the Bedford Taxpayers Association last year and voted upon in November,” Wolf said. “It is unfortunate that they are walking away from an agreement they were integral in creating, but we cannot control their actions.”

Karen Grimmett, one of five directors for the BHC, also questioned the call for a sweeping no vote on the four articles and BTA’s split form BHC and TQE.

“When we met with the BTA through the spring , summer and fall, we all worked hard for a long-term Bedford plan. And now it seems that they don’t have the best interest of the citizens of Bedford in mind,” Grimmett said.