I'm old enough to remember when pundits forecast a red tsunami in the 2022 midterm elections.
We now know that didn't happen.
The next election I'm watching closely takes place on March 14 in Newton.
That’s when Newton Mayor Ruthanne Fuller will ask voters to raise taxes by nearly $15 million through three tax override ballot questions.
As I told the B.C. Heights a few weeks ago, there’s much we need to understand about these proposals and our chamber will be listening carefully. But at a time when our employers are battling inflation, wage pressure, and a looming recession, a property tax increase feels like a lot to ask of our business community.
And remember, Newton has a dual tax rate, which results in businesses being taxed at a rate that's nearly double the residential rate.
The largest portion of the mayor’s tax increase – three-quarters overall -- would go to the Newton Public Schools at a time when school enrollment is declining.
Headcount in Newton is down about 900 students, a roughly 7% drop from before the pandemic struck in March 2020, reports the Globe’s, John Hilliard.
Some enrollment declines may reflect more parents placing kids in private schools or home-schooling during the pandemic.
But a decline in birth rate, the high cost of housing, and the fact that many larger homes are occupied by empty nesters were all projected by Fuller to result in fewer students back in 2019.
Sure enough, Newton's kindergarten enrollment has been decreasing annually since 2013. This year's kindergarten class is 712 students, the smallest since the early 1980s, Hilliard reports.
Still, Fuller’s proposal calls for a $4.5 million annual increase in the school budget plus $5.8 million in the form of debt exclusion overrides to help rebuild two elementary schools
"We are asking Massachusetts' holiday shoppers to remember that how they invest their dollars makes a big difference in the local economy," Hurst said. "We are asking consumers to commit to investing a good portion of their spending budgets right here in our communities."
Holiday sales in the 2021 season increased 16% in Massachusetts and 14% nationally due to pent-up demand from COVID, RAM said.
Roughly 600,000 people are employed in retail statewide, accounting for about 17% of all jobs in the state, according to RAM.
Report: State not ready for EV charging demand
As recently as this spring, the Globe ran a series of articles warning that Massachusetts faces a significant shortage of EV chargers along the Mass Pike and other roads -- hampering the likelihood of meeting the state’s climate goals.
Then this summer both the state and the federal government approved new rebate programs designed to encourage purchasing electric vehicles
Now a new study from National Grid suggests that, while more charging stations are popping up, the real challenge will not be installing EV stations, but delivering the electricity needed to power those stations, reports Bruce Mohl at CommonWealth.
The study says electric vehicle adoption “has reached a tipping point” with the typical Mass Pike toll plaza needing as much electricity as Gillette Stadium. And the demand is arriving much sooner than planners expected.
The Watertown Planning Board will consider two life science building proposals tonight (Nov. 16) at 7 p.m. via Zoom. The first is at 490 Arsenal Way, where Columbia Massachusetts Arsenal Office Properties LLC seeks to build a 104,000 SF research and development lab/office building. The second is a 224,000 SF research and development lab/office building at 99 Water Street 51 Water Street. (Watertown News)
Our friends at the Watertown Business Coalition are hosting WBC's Fall Fest tomorrow (Nov. 17) at 6 p.m. at the Commander's Mansion. Register.
Newton-based JNR Management Inc. bought two hotel properties in Norwood and Framingham for $26.6M.JNR acquired the 125-room Residence Inn Boston Framingham for $15.8M and the 96-room Residence Inn Boston Norwood/Canton for $10.8M (BizNow).
NFIB will host a virtual meeting for small business owners on how to take steps to avoid the Millionaire’s Tax on Nov. 30 at 8:30 a.m. Tax expert Adam DoVale, Director with Andersen, will offer insights on planning for the new surtax which goes into effect in January 2023. Details.
Natick dam's days are numbered
Efforts to restore part of the Charles River by removing the Natick Dam took another step forward last week when the town’s select board voted 4-1 to remove the structure.
Inspectors determined last year that the 88-year-old spillway was in poor condition and that a breach could result in catastrophic flooding, with implications for Wellesley downriver.
Meanwhile, environmental advocates argued that removing the structure would be beneficial for the river's health and wildlife.
They had financial arguments in their favor too: It would cost Natick roughly $1 million less to remove it than to repair it. Repairs would have also required removing about 60 trees.
“I don’t take lightly the fact that the climate is changing,” said Select Board Chair Paul Joseph prior to the vote. “And the resilience of a river that’s not dammed is, by far, stronger than a river that is impeded by man-made structures.”
The spillway removal process is expected to take more than three years.
Meanwhile, advocates continue to make the case for the removal of the Watertown Dam too, amidst fears that a breach there could overwhelm the Galen Street Bridge and shut down roads and businesses along the river -- including along Watertown Square, Charles River Road, and Nonantum Road.
But unlike in Natick, where the decision lies with the town, the Watertown decision is in the hands of the Mass. Department of Conservation and Recreation.
Another life sciences project proposed in Wellesley
Beacon Capital Partners is moving forward with plans to convert one of the four buildings along Route 9 and I-95 into a 123,000-square-foot life sciences space, BBJ’s Greg Ryan reports.
The application is pending before Wellesley's planning board.
Beacon already has approval for an office-to-lab conversion just across Route 9, at 93 Worcester St. The two projects would become Wellesley’s first and second lab projects.
MassBio turns to Burlin O’Connell to replace Boncore
The Globe’s Jonathan Saltzman reported over the weekend that Joseph Boncore’s abrupt departure last week as head of MassBio was a "firing," not a resignation, as the trade organization formally announced.
Details of the dismissal are unknown, except that the ouster by MassBio’s executive committee reportedly followed an emergency meeting and that the vote was 5-0, Saltzman writes.
Due to construction on the Town Common, Needham’s annual Blue Tree Lighting Ceremony will take place on Sat., Dec. 3 from 5-6 p.m. on Greene’s Field.
All the traditional event trimmings -- Santa arriving by fire truck, holiday songs performed by the Needham High Chorale, and Plugged In Band Program -- will be included.
1,500+ calls for making outdoor dining permanent
In just a few months, the state regulations that allowed for outdoor dining during the pandemic will expire.
In order for restaurants across the state to continue to operate, local municipalities must update the rules and regulations that guide this process.
Worried that the wheels of municipal government don’t always spin quickly, the chamber’s Charles River Dining Collaborate recently launched an online petition drive, urging Newton officials to prioritize updating the rules and regulations that would make outdoor dining permanent across the city.