Many advocates and fellow residents are pondering what kind of town should Shrewsbury be in light of the 2013 Fiscal Study Report. I think most of agree that public safety is a main priority and of utmost importance in promoting as humanly possible a safe town to live in. Without these services or cuts in personnel, many residents would feel insecure and unsafe in this community. I remember living in Queens, New York as a young child in the 1970's when the city threatened to layoff police officers due to being in a severe financial crunch. The Police Union responded by putting up large posters and billboards on the major roads showing a white cloth wrapped over a body. The message clearly stated to what can happen if cuts are made to public safety across the five boroughs in New York City.
Many residents concur that having a fully funded and solid school system is also a main priority under public safety. A high quality public education system results in increased home sales and property values in Shrewsbury. If the education system starts to decline, I can't imagine what the impact can be for homeowners and businesses in the area.
In light of a sudden increase in homeless children attending our schools, I think it is time to openly debate on how we can prevent homelessness in our community.
Is this a priority to increase affordable housing in the area? Absolutely. Ironically, rich towns like Shrewsbury, Northborough, and Westborough are dealing with the increase in homeless families as they populate our motels, when in reality, they did not welcome them in our communities in the first place. So now what do you do with these families? How about supporting affordable housing by asking some landlords to reduce their exorbitant rents? Maybe the town can apply for grants to
build more low-income housing units and to fund new initiatives in our public school system to serve those who may need assistance to learn in the classrooms.
I think it is time that the town asked large non-profit entities that occupy office space in public commercial buildings to do payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) like they do in Worcester and in Cambridge. If the town is crying for more revenue to fund public services and the school system, then why not ask these non-profits to contribute funds to help pay for them.
In summary, I would like to see Shrewsbury be a welcoming town that promotes diversity and creativity in being able to fully fund public safety and the school system; to promote increased affordable housing; and to start a PILOT program for large non-profits to pay for their share of using public services.