May 312015

I must thank all of the citizens of Groton who voted for me for Selectman. I know many of you, but I certainly don’t know all of you and I am humbled that so many of you read and listened to my message for more civility in Town Government.

I started as a relative unknown running against an incumbent so I knew it was an uphill battle. During my campaign, I worked hard to deliver a message of hope for all the positive things that we can accomplish in Groton. I will continue to work to that end.

I am also encouraged by the support that I received for my proposals for economic development in Groton so that we can begin to develop a business tax base in order to fully fund our schools pay our teachers a fair salary, fix our roads, improve our infrastructure, support our sports teams, support our children’s recreational endeavors and provide new and/or improved facilities for our citizens, young and old.

Recently there has been a great deal of discussion about the “dire state” of our finances. Unlike some, I think we are in fine shape for the time being. We have a Triple AAA Bond rating and our tax rate and taxes per home are in the middle of the pack with respect to surrounding towns.; However I am worried about the future. Contrary to what some might claim, we can’t cut our way to fiscal solvency and we can’t continue to raise taxes on homeowners. Roughly 94% of the town’s budget already comes from residential taxes, and an aging residential population on fixed incomes is bearing far more of the tax burden through property taxes than many comparable towns in the area. We need to change the fact that the business tax revenue in Groton is tiny compared to many surrounding towns. Note that the 2011 Master Plan for Groton talks at length about the need for additional businesses in Groton but little has been achieved in making it happen. Some say that it can’t be done, but the fact is that no one has tried!

So what is my vision as to how to make it happen? Groton has so much to offer in the form of natural resources such as our lakes, hiking trails, rail trail, river and golf course for year round recreation for families and seniors alike. I believe that we need to leverage these natural resources as a way to begin to shift that tax burden off the backs of residents. New businesses could thrive, and local restaurants, cafes and other retail outlets would benefit from this approach. The new Groton Inn and the new bicycle shop at the old fire station could be anchors for such activities.

As a way to accelerate this effort, I will continue to push to get grants to hire an Economic Development specialist to coordinate this effort for Groton as several towns around us have done successfully.

I hope that the Selectmen take my suggestions to heart and begin to look for ways to make Groton more affordable to all of its citizens.

From the bottom of my heart, I thank you for your support and ask that you get involved in helping make Groton the envy of all the other towns in Middlesex County.

Art Prest