Money and Finance Greater Gardner MA Local News
Money-Finance Around Greater Gardner MA
- GFC 9-15-22 (9/15/2022)
Watch the meeting on YouTube or listen to it right here on any device. CLICK PLAY.
Gardner MA Finance Committee Goes Over a Wide Range of Topics
Gardner Mayor Michael Nicholson appeared before the Finance Committee regarding various funding requests. He also detailed that Tender Heart Veterinary Care is donating regular office visits for K-9 Rocky and discounting any future procedures by 30%, and went over his request to handle Senior Center finances in such a way that funds are available as unanticipated expenses come up.
The Mayor explained the Flower Pots in Downtown and South Gardner are featuring flowers from Valley Florists. Sponsorships are $75 for remainder of this year.
Inquisitive Counselors asked the Mayor to change his hat to that of Chairman of the School Committee for an update on the New Elementary School. Mayor Nicholson indicated that the inside was 98% done, explaining that hot lunches are now available. However, the outside construction will take an additional 8 months to a year and they are working on getting one playground operational. Student dropoff and pickup is getting better after a chaotic first day.
- Home Sales (9/3/2022)
With home prices and interest rates up, monthly payments are up. Here’s a link to an online mortgage payment calculator. CLICK HERE.
Prices Up, Home Sales Cooling, Interest Rates Double for Greater Gardner MA
In the City of Gardner MA, the median home price was just over 289k as of July 2021 and is up 14% to just under 330k as of July 2022. Interest rates have doubled since last summer.
The numbers: With a 10% down payment and 30 year fixed mortgage at 3%, that median-priced home had a payment of $1098. A year later, with interest rates doubling to 6%, the same home would have a payment of $1779, allowing for both the increase in home price and interest rate. That’s a payment increase of 62%. Payments do not include mortgage insurance for less than 20% down, real estate taxes, or insurance.
The Cooling: According to the Warren Group, “Increases in wages and salaries are not keeping pace with inflation that is now running at 8.5%. Plus, homebuyers face a very low inventory of homes for sale. All this leads to a cooler real estate market.”
In the State of Massachusetts, the median home price was 540K as of July 2021 and is up 8.3% to 585k as of July 2022. With same down payments and rates as quoted above, the monthly payment is up 42%.
Rents up as well. Local craigslist ads on September 3, 2022 show that a 1 bedroom can easily go for $1200/month, 2 bedroom $1400/month, and 3 bedroom $1600/month. However, the latest listing was on August 30th. Social Media posts frequently show people frustrated over availability when trying to find an apartment.
- Tax Free Weekend (8/13/2022)
The Massachusetts Sales Tax is suspended for Saturday August 13 and Sunday August 14, 2022. It’s like a BIG SALE built in to almost everything you buy!
The Sales Tax Holiday in Greater Gardner MA will give you just a little bit more money in your pocket for those school supplies, that brand new toaster, or even a TV!
- Growing Places (8/5/2022)
Growing Places is in different communities on a daily basis. If you need food now, view the calendar. CLICK HERE.
Growing Places Pop-Up Market Stretches Gardner MA Food Budgets
This Summer and Fall, the Growing Places Refrigerated Van Pop-up Market brings fresh local produce to 74 West Street Gardner (across from the Gardner Ale House) every Friday from 10:00am to 11:00am. You can pay with cash, credit/debit, Farmers Market Coupons, or SNAP/HIP dollars. In fact if you have SNAP, you can get extra benefits for local produce. Complete flyer, CLICK HERE. Growing Places website, CLICK HERE.
- Music Job (8/4/2022)
Gardner MA Has Opening for Dream Job
As of August 4, 2022, Gardner needs a Gardner Middle School Band Director and a Marching Percussion Instructor at Gardner High School. Doesn’t have to be the same person. The Middle School Band Director is a full teacher position. The High School Percussion Instructor is part-time throughout the marching band season.
The successful candidate will have the opportunity to work in one of the Commonwealth’s most wonderful School Districts – The Chair City.
These are highly prestigious jobs in this sought-after School District so the positions are expected to be filled rapidly. Here is a link to the General Employment Application. CLICK HERE.
- No Tax (8/4/2022)
No Sales Tax in Greater Gardner MA on Saturday August 13 and Sunday August 14
The Massachusetts State Legislature approved the break from state sales tax on most retail items less than $2,500. If you can wait for that $200 air conditioner, you save $12.50. If you can wait to buy that $1500 washer/dryer combo, you’ll save close to a hundred bucks! Schedule a purchase of that furniture you’ve been wanting which costs 2 grand, and you’ll save a whopping $125. Wait a few days to buy that $500 laptop for school, and you save over 30 bucks.
The Sales Tax Holiday in Greater Gardner MA will give you just a little bit more money in your pocket for those school supplies, that brand new toaster, or even a TV!
- Departments Interview (8/3/2022)
City of Gardner Department Links:
Gardner MA Mayor Michael Nicholson Interviewed on Citizen Concerns and City Departments
On August 3, 2022, Gardner MA Mayor Michael Nicholson answered our questions regarding Citizen Concerns and the Interaction of City Departments with Community Members. We present the AUDIO of the complete interview in mp3 format. Listen on any device.
Subjects covered included National Night Out, the Timeline of Gardner Public Schools, Social Media Posts, Water Pooling Issues at the Dog Park, the DPW, Addressing Citizen Concerns and needs, Parks and Recreation, Job Openings with the City, DPW Vacancies, Gardner Housing Authority, Department Heads and the Press, the Building Department, Animal Control, Reappointment of City Treasurer, Assessor/Tax Collector and Taxes, City Clerk, Various Departments working together, Public Safety, Health Department, Funding for positions, Purchasing Department, Human Resources, School Staffing, Gardner Sludge, and Praise for Departments.
Complete Article with text of entire interview, CLICK HERE.
- Housing Market (7/26/2022)
Housing Market Stats Show Wide Appeal of Gardner MA
According to Redfin: “In June 2022, Gardner home prices were up 12.4% compared to last year, selling for a median price of $340K. On average, homes in Gardner sell after 20 days on the market compared to 11 days last year. There were 33 homes sold in June this year, up from 26 last year.”
Redfin rated the Gardner Housing Market as 85/100 or Very Competitive, a higher score than Fitchburg and just 1 point behind Leominster. Here’s why: Many homes get multiple offers, some with waived contingencies. The average homes sell for about 8% above list price and go pending in around 18 days. Hot homes can sell for about 13% above list price and go pending in around 8 days.
Gardner is hotter than Fitchburg, with Fitchburg home prices up 7.7% in June 2022, selling for a median price a little lower than Gardner at $334k. 50 homes sold in Fitchburg this June, down from 51 last year. Score 81/100. Gardner home prices went up slightly more than Leominster with Leominster home prices up 12.1% compared to last year. However, the Leominster median home price is higher at $380k. Score 86/100
Nearby Communities: Winchendon, up 1%, Ashburnham up 0%, Templeton up 9.1% with a median home price of $450k, Westminster up 24.2% with a median price of $655k, Hubbardston up 27% with a median price of $463k. Athol, up 2% with a median price of $260k. In Phillipston with a total of 5 homes sold, the home prices were down 15.9% with a median price of $290k, however it’s still considered very competitive with a score of 81/100.
Future Not as Rosy
However, not all is rosy when it comes to the future housing market, due to market uncertainty. Business Insider reports that since mortgage interest rates began rising, the nation’s largest homebuilder. D.R. Horton says more buyers are cancelling deals amid growing real-estate market pessimism. The builder says a growing number of would-be homebuyers are backing out of deals for newly constructed homes as they confront higher mortgage rates and an uncertain future for the housing market, stating that in its recent quarter, 24% of its contracts fell through – up 7 percentage points from a year prior.
Mortgage Rates Up
According to Freddie Mac, the average US fixed rate for a 30 year mortgage came in at 5.54% this week, notably higher than the pandemic low of 2.68% in December 2020. See our graphic of today’s mortgage rates. June’s inflation report shows 9.1% inflation, the highest level in 40 years. The Federal Reserve increased its benchmark short-term interest rate by 50 basis points in May, 75 basis points in June, and is expected to raise them again by 75 basis points in late July. Mortgage rates went up as a result.
- Free Training (7/19/2022)
Monty Tech offering FREE 200 Hours of Training to Greater Gardner MA Residents
The Vocational-Technical School got a $600,000 grant from Commonwealth Corporation to offer FREE TRAINING for six different careers. You must be a Massachusetts resident, earn less than $46,700, and want to go into the industry when your training is done. You end up with certifications and job placement help. Career pathways offered include HVAC and Oil Burner Tech, Property Management, CNC Operation, Culinary Arts, Electrical, and Welding.
Download PDF, CLICK HERE.
- Satellite Internet (7/19/2022)
Unlimited Satellite Internet now available in Gardner MA and some area towns
Elon Musk’s venture Starlink Satellite Internet is available to Gardner residents, and other area towns such as Winchendon, Phillipston, and Templeton. Currently, the price is $110 per month for residential plus the cost of equipment. Other satellite services are available to Gardner, but here is the difference: the bandwidth limit and latency. Starlink offers unlimited internet while others have considerable limits, making the use of streaming apps not feasible in the past. With Starlink, you can do whatever you did before with Cable internet. Cost is not cheap, but it is a viable alternative, and a great backup for any business relying on the World Wide Web. Note that Fitchburg and Leominster still have to wait. There is more information on their website and you can check your exact address for availability. CLICK HERE.
We checked out exact cost. You’ll pay a total of $686.44 upfront for equipment and then billing will start within about 2 weeks of shipping out to you. Currently $110 monthly.
- R.E. Tax (7/15/2022)
Gardner MA Real Estate Taxes Explained
Currently, Gardner can’t tax real estate and personal property more than $31,271,792 due to Prop 2 1/2 (Not including New Growth). The 1st and 2nd quarter bills just sent out totaled $17,788,278 per the City Assessor’s office, leaving a limit of $13,483,514 for the next billing for 3rd and 4th quarter. Any questions, get in touch with the Assessor’s Office or Treasurer/Collector
The Reason for the Disparity
Gardner must by State Law send out the bills based on an awkward combination of the tax rate already set AND the higher real estate values from calendar year 2021. Result: Higher bills first two quarters and lower bills second two quarters when everything gets sorted out. Total bill: What it should be, it all gets sorted out in the end.
Learn more about Prop 2 1/2
Gardner Magazine has a page covering everything you ever wanted to know about Proposition 2 1/2 in Massachusetts including videos prepared by the State on What is Proposition 2 1/2?, What Is a Levy Limit and how is it calculated?, What is New Growth and how is it calculated?, what is the levy ceiling and how is it calculated?, How can a community levy above its levy limit/ceiling?, What is a Levy Limit Override or Underride?, What is an exclusion?, What are the differences between and Override and an Exclusion?, and What is Excess Levy Capacity? These videos will help you no matter what Greater Gardner town you live in. For the page of short videos, CLICK HERE.
Prop 2 1/2 PDF
We also have a complete primer on Prop 2 1/2. CLICK HERE.
- Summer Eats (7/10/2022)
Summer Eats with Project Bread in Gardner MA Feeds Kids
The Summer Eats Program at Gardner High School provides FREE breakfast from 8:15 to 9:00am and FREE lunch from noon to 1pm Monday through Friday through August 12th Anyone 18 years of age or younger can enjoy breakfast and lunch for FREE in the Gardner High School cafeteria at 200 Catherine Street, Gardner. (Gym 1 entrance).
No Registration or ID
No registration or ID is necessary. Similar programs are available with lunch available at the Royalston library and various locations in Athol, Orange, Fitchburg, and Leominster. For your community, use the convenient online map. CLICK HERE.
- Tax Inversion (7/8/2022)
From a Press Release from Gardner MA Mayor Michael Nicholson: “According to Massachusetts General Law and the restrictions of Proposition 2 ½, the City cannot raise taxes more than 2 ½% each year. For the current fiscal year, the total amount of property taxes that Gardner can collect is $31,271,792.” Read the entire Press Release.
City of Gardner MA Hit With Tax Inversion Phenomenon, Confusing Taxpayers
If conditions are ideal, a City’s Real Estate tax rate set by the City Council is fairly accurate, with preliminary 1st and 2nd quarter bills usually being somewhat lower than the final bills for 3rd and 4th quarter. However, due to state-mandated calculations, this time around, the Chair City gets stuck with a Tax Inversion.
Instead of being able to immediately lower the tax rate per $1000 of valuation to compensate for the higher valuations of calendar year 2021, Gardner is forced by State law to send out the bills with both the already approved tax rate AND the higher valuation. The Result: Tax Inversion, where the bills for 1st and 2nd quarter are higher than expected. Good News: 3rd and 4th quarter actual real estate tax bills get adjusted so that the total you pay for the year is accurate. Conclusion: You pay more now, but pay less later.
Note: This is the first time Tax Inversion has hit Gardner since 2006. It’s because the average house prices in calendar year 2021 went up a lot. Help: If this situation presents a financial problem, don’t worry, the City of Gardner will work with you. Local Resources: The best place to get questions answered regarding your Gardner MA Real Estate taxes is the Treasurer/Collector office. Here is a link to the website page.
Future Tax Rate
Future Tax Rate: Once New Growth, Free Cash, etc. is certified by about November/December of 2022, the Gardner City Council is allowed to adjust the tax rate to compensate. The last two quarters get adjusted, and the universe goes back into balance. Tax Levy Limited: Remember, Gardner can’t tax more than a certain amount for the year due to Prop 2 ½, so you can be sure the adjustments will be made at the appropriate time. This may be inconvenient, but it all gets worked out in the end.
Understanding the Issue
The State of Massachusetts has a guide to Municipal Property Taxes. CLICK HERE. You can also read the actual State Law which restricts how Cities and Towns in Massachusetts can handle the situation. CLICK HERE. A third party site, Smart Asset, explains how property taxes vary throughout Massachusetts and some other interesting related tidbits. CLICK HERE.
While it can be a shock to get an unexpectedly high bill given current worries about inflation, the transparency of Gardner City Hall on this issue and its willingness to work with taxpayers should relieve some stress.
- Projects (7/6/2022)
Gardner MA Mayor Michael Nicholson – The Projects Interview – July 6, 2022
Gardner Magazine Publisher Werner Poegel interviews Mayor Nicholson. The Chair City Mayor speaks about the new Gardner Elementary School, taxes, projects, and paving. In the complete article, we now have in writing the complete section on the New School explaining how your bills won’t go up because of it, how your higher preliminary real estate bills will get adjusted in the end, and how the City will work with those needing help in paying.
Gardner MA School Excellence and Safety
The Mayor cites numerous examples of excellence, going above and beyond, and School Safety.
For complete article, CLICK HERE.
To listen to the complete interview, just click the play button below:
- City Council 7-5-22 (7/6/2022)
Listen to Meeting Audio
For past City Council Meetings you can listen to on any device, CLICK HERE.
No Big Raises for Gardner MA HR Director and Assistant City Solicitor
An amendment made by Gardner City Councilor James Walsh won the day and the large raises proposed for the Assistant City Solicitor and Human Resource Director were voted down, in favor of a 2% raise comparable to what other City employees are getting. Despite both the Assistant Solicitor and Human Resource Director taking on additional duties, the larger raises were denied, but Councilor discussion indicates a City-wide salary survey may be undertaken soon. After this survey according to Walsh, any raises could be made retroactive to July 1 if desired.
In New Business, 4 of the 10 Gardner MA City Councilors made comments.
Dana Heath – I want to thank the Mayor for earlier explaining the taxes. I actually had a constituent earlier today who just got her tax bill. And I feel like everything you just said touched every topic that she brought to me. ….and everyone get out to the Food Truck Fest the 9th.
Nathan Boudreau – On June 25th, an explosive good time was had by all. ….I would like to thank the Mayor and the Council, and the police, fire, different members clubs from the community, and for all getting together to put on a great time. There didn’t seem to be any issues, the fireworks show was outstanding, I looking forward to what we will do over the next year for the 100th anniversary, noting that for year 237 we went off. So, thank you everybody involved in that. It was a good time.
James Walsh – I appreciate the Mayor explaining at tonight’s meeting as well as the other efforts made to explain the inversion of the tax rate versus the preliminary tax bill, versus the valuations that are used to, or the assessments that are used to, calculate the preliminary tax bills, it’s a little complicated, a little confusing, but we have to explain it to our constituents the best we can and I think the efforts being taken to do so hopefully will meet the challenges. The other thing, when I received my email, the Mayor’s announcement….I reminded the Mayor, that while we’re allowed to increase taxes by 2 ½ percent, we’re not obligated to, and we can do lower than that if circumstances justify. There’s a supplemental budget based upon the new growth anticipated tax levy, and we’ll have the opportunity to address that topic at that time. See the Gardner Magazine article on Tax Inversion.
Ron Cormier. “ Yeah briefly, we had two items placed on file this evening. One of them was the notification of a Mass Trails Grant award. The city has been working long and hard for years and years to develop a rail trail system and it came out this week that we received a $245,000 grant to help plan the further process. Wherever these rail trails are, they’re always well received. It’s a multi-use trail, and expand the ones we have is commendable. This is great news. The other one is to a notification to approve vacant storefront program. It’s something to help merchants, storefront owners, to improve the looks of their Downtown. We took action a couple weeks ago to try to improve a couple of parks, to try to improve the appearance of our community. We know we have new landlords in town who already made efforts to bring these buildings up to snuff. And this is another step forward, in trying to make Gardner, we have to make ourselves look better. This is another part of it. I just thought it was important to make note of that.
- Mayor’s Update July 1, 2022 (7/1/2022)
Update is about 11 minutes long, but worth every minute of it if you are a Gardner taxpayer. Please take the time to watch it. You’ll be glad you did.
Tax Bills Focus of Gardner MA Michael Nicholson Update
Mayor Nicholson mentioned recent grants and various events, but focused on explaining upcoming real estate tax bills, which will be higher than expected for the first two quarters, but commensurately lower for the last two quarters. This is an important update for all taxpayers to watch so we’re making it available to you right here. Just click play at left.
UPDATE: Notice Regarding Preliminary Tax Bills – from City of Gardner website, for pdf, CLICK HERE
- Preliminary Tax Bills (6/30/2022)
Gardner Property Taxes: First two quarterly bills higher, second two quarterly bills lower. Mayor Nicholson explains.
Due to a slight conflict in the way the laws regarding municipal taxation are set up, Gardner property owners will get the first two quarterly real estate tax bills based both on the $18.59/thousand tax rate set by City Council AND the new higher property valuations. Therefore, the first two quarterly bills will be higher than expected (7/22 and 10/22), but as the tax rate is lowered by the City Council to adjust for the higher values (once new growth and free cash are certified around November/December), the next two quarterly bills (1/23 and 4/23) will be much lower than expected.
Tax for the year will be the correct total and residents will not pay more in total than expected. As the Mayor stated, “In the end, the amount collected is still capped at the same amount.” Mayor’s full Press Release is attached for your convenience and has an example which gives a clear explanation.. CLICK HERE
- Council Busy (6/18/2022)
While any discussions of budgets can conjure up visions of the “Fat Budget Man”, Gardner residents should know that Mayor Nicholson’s proposed budget has the lowest proposed increase of comparable cities. See our article.
Gardner MA City Council Facing Busy Week – Focus on Budget Fiscal Year 2023
The Gardner Massachusetts City Council is taking Monday off this week due to the Juneteenth Holiday. Then, it’s WORK and more WORK Tuesday and Wednesday with Informal and Regular Meetings. You can view the various City Council Agendas and packets. 6-21 Informal, 6-21 Regular, 6-22 Informal, 6-22 Regular.
With respect to Maki Park and Park Street Park, the Mayor’s submissions intend to demonstrate that City Council approval of both would be consistent with the City Council’s past actions relating to both proposed expenditures.
Gardner Magazine had a previous article on the City of Gardner Fiscal Year 2023, demonstrating its efficiency compared to other communities. CLICK HERE.
- Gas Prices Vary (6/12/2022)
Gas Prices Appear to Vary Substantially by Region of the Country ($4 to $8) on June 11, 2022
Los Angeles, California
New Orleans, Lousiana
CLICK any of the Images for Larger View
- Gas Bump (6/5/2022)
Gardner MA Gas Prices Cross $5 threshold on Sunday 6-5-22
With the highest posted price in Gardner MA being $509.9 per gallon for a credit sale, most prices were at or near the $5.00 mark. The least expensive gas at the 2 o’clock hour on Sunday, June 5, 2022 was the Shell gas station at the corner of West Street in Gardner with a price of $4.899.
Gas prices have been steeply rising across Massachusetts. Prices elsewhere in states such as California are markedly higher with many stations at $8 and one at the $10 mark per gallon.
For the latest nationwide Gas Price Heat Map from Gas Buddy, CLICK HERE.
- Gardner MA Budget (5/30/2022)
Gardner MA Budget Increase Compared to Other Cities
Mayor Michael Nicholson has stated he made an effort to keep costs down in the 2023 Gardner Budget. Is that true? We did a comparison to other cities in Massachusetts to see how Gardner stacks up. With a proposed budget of $74.85 million, the Gardner budget is an increase of 5.9% over 2022. Leominster’s budget of $150.6 million is up 9.9%, Fitchburg’s budget of $149.6 million is up 7.25%, and Boston with a $4 billion budget is up 6.4%. The Chair City of Gardner MA has the lowest proposed budget increase of any of these cities. So did the Mayor make an effort to keep costs down, even in the face of inflation? The numbers say yes. And don’t forget, Gardner just had a perfect audit of its finances, the first in decades. Citizens can feel confident that Gardner is well managed. Not opinion, objective fact.
- Mayor’s update 5-27-22 (5/27/2022)
Complete FY 2023 Budget Information in pdf format: FY23 Compensation Schedule —- FY23 Public Service Committee Submissions —- FY 23 Public Welfare Committee Submissions —- FY23 School Budget Presentation of 3-14-22 —– FY 23 Public Safety Committee Submissions —- FY23 Finance Committee Submissions —- FY 23 City Budget Submission.
Gardner MA Michael Nicholson Focuses on Events and Progress – Alerts Citizens to Effects of Inflation on City Costs.
The Mayor spoke of the upcoming Memorial Day Parade (see our previous article for details), the non-essential 9am-5pm water use ban (see article for details), various events, the new community garden to benefit the CAC (see our article for details), and Candor Realty’s outreach efforts.
Watch the Mayor’s Update on the City of Gardner Youtube page or on our Mayor’s Update page, CLICK HERE.
Mayor Nicholson spoke about the Fiscal Year 2023 City Budget and has made all documents available to us. See at left. See how your money will be spent.
The Gardner City Council will meet in June and must approve the budget before the fiscal year begins on July 1st. Note that the City Council can reduce the budget, but it is not empowered to increase the budget.
Inflationary Pressures on City Budget are Ongoing
To outsource the line painting of yellow and white lines has cost less than $18,000 in each of the past 5 years. This year, the minimum bid came in at $32,000. The Mayor said, ““that’s almost double what we normally pay.” The Fiscal Year 2023 Budget has been submitted by the City Council who will review it and act upon it before the new fiscal year starts on July 1, 2022.
Countdown to Sidewalk Sales and Fireworks Display
Sidewalk Sales will be held on Saturday June 25, 2022 in Downtown Gardner, and the Fireworks Display at the PACC is that evening at Dusk. It’s all part of Gardner’s birthday celebration. On June 27th, John Philip Sousa Honor Band will be performing FREE at Monument Park.. And next year will be Gardner’s 100th as a City, a celebration committee will be forming soon to start planning the City Centennial.
- Oil – Gas Prices (5/13/2022)
Oil and Gas in Gardner MA Hit All Time Highs
Fuel Oil and Gas prices have hit the roof. A site reportedly showing the cheapest fuel oil prices in Massachusetts shows a price of $5.49 per gallon, which is only 30 cents lower than being charged by local oil companies in Gardner MA. One year ago the price was around $2.50. See current prices. Gas prices are running close to or over $4.50 per gallon throughout the area. One year ago, the price was around $3 per gallon, Two years ago, the price was around $2 per gallon. Massachusetts is less expensive than California, where prices are approaching $7.00 per gallon. See current local area gas prices on the Gas Buddy Map. .
- Update 4-29-22 (4/29/2022)
For the Mayor’s weekly update, visit the City of Gardner YouTube page or our Mayor’s update page. CLICK HERE.
Gardner MA Finances Get a Perfect Score, First time at least in Decades
This week, Gardner MA Mayor Michael Nicholson delivered his weekly update from the site of the new Community Health Connections medical building on Timpany Boulevard. While the Mayor maintained his composure, his pride in the City’s Finance Team was evident: Here’s why. Gardner received its annual independent outside audit this week as required by Mass. General Laws.
This is the first known year in the City’s history that not only were there no findings found, but also no suggestions of how things could go better. It’s the best audit result Gardner could possibly have received and objectively shows that the Chair City is well-managed. Mayor Nicholson said, “Big congratulations to our City Auditor John Richard and to the other Department Heads who are part of our Finance Team. It will help improve our bond rating as we move forward as well.”
Gardner PD Investigation Executive Summary released. Nicholson stated, “As things are finalized, we’ll be sure to let the public know.” Gardner Magazine has 2 stories on the matter if you scroll down.
Other items included in the weekly update were: At airport: The Mayor related the excitement of the plane which noticed it had a bullet on the wing near its gas cap. Gardner was closest airport. Airport is actually located within the Town of Templeton and that’s why Templeton PD responded. Paving: Mayor Nicholson went over various paving updates. Pearson Boulevard to be milled on May 3rd. Pearl Street to be milled on May 9th. Congratulations: Congratulations to Isaac Knight and his family on the ribbon cutting for Knight’s Nutrition in Downtown Gardner. Congratulations to Gardner’s own Dawn George who works for the Department of Corrections, who was recently inducted into the Women’s Boxing Hall of Fame. Light the Town Purple: Light the Town Purple Event coming to Gardner this coming Monday right before the City Council meeting at Gardner City Hall at 7pm. This is the kick-off event for the Gardner Relay for Life event to be taking place in June. Keep Gardner Beautiful: Keep Gardner Beautiful Nip Hunt and litter cleanup event taking place Saturday May 7th beginning at 9am. Register through Keep Gardner Beautiful Facebook page.
- Finance Committee (4/13/2022)
Who’s at fault? ASPHALT.
Gardner MA Finance Committee Confronts Asphalt at 4-13-22 Meeting
The Gardner MA Finance Committee met on Wednesday 4-13-22 and approved various recommendations to the City Council including $10,000 in additional funding for Downtown trash receptables due to price increases, the $75,000 annual amount to maintain the former dump, and $1.8 million in additional paving costs for various streets where water lines were recently replaced. Asphalt is now at a high of $83 per ton. Nationally it has ranged from just over $30 almost 20 years ago to about $70 in 2015, down to about $60 in 2016, and more recently about $65 per ton. Watch the meeting on YouTube. CLICK HERE.
- Inflation Impact (4/10/2022)
The Gardner City Council will meet again on Tuesday April 19, 2022. For our City Council page and to view the most recent meetings, CLICK HERE.
Rising Prices Impact Gardner MA Current and Upcoming Budget
Where possible, Gardner Mayor Michael Nicholson has attempted to take advantage of lower contracted prices on certain items such as road materials. However, the Chair City is not immune to inflation, and the current budget is impacted by rising prices. And the budget for the next fiscal year which the Mayor reportedly will submit to the City Council next month has the same challenges. In an interview Saturday 4-9-22 on WGAW AM 1340 and 98.1 FM, City Council President Elizabeth Kazinskas specified a few specific areas of immediate concern which will be discussed at the next meeting on Tuesday, April 19, 2022:
Kazinskas stated, ““The City Council voted at our February 22nd meeting to install new trash receptacles downtown….The mayor has an order on the agenda to revisit that,….appropriate 10 thousand dollars…due to the increase in prices….The Department of Corrections has increased the price of the trash receptacles.” “Another item…water infrastructure throughout the city, replacing old pipes and valves…due to rising price of asphalt…original loan is no longer sufficient to cover costs. So there is a request for an additional $1.8 million to be borrowed from the water enterprise account in order to complete the project…still within the city’s debt limit…another effect of what’s going on throughout the world on our cities..”
Kazinskas praised the current Mayor, the previous mayor, and the Economic Development Department for their abilities to obtain various grants to help cover city costs. “They helped get money, whether it’s state or federal.” Kazinskas stated that it was important to note that the City Council can’t add to the City budget, it can only cut from the budget. “Any amendments that we make would be a cut to the budget, not an addition to the budget… By the time we vote on the budget, we’ve had the budget in front of us for over a month.” On a lighter note, the Council President stated she was happy to be celebrating the 98th birthday next Saturday of her grandmother who is “100 percent Polish.”
To hear the Hotline Radio program from Saturday 4-9-22, please visit the WGAW Hotline Radio page: CLICK HERE The program featuring local interviews airs every Saturday from 12:10pm to 2:00pm on WGAW AM 1340, 98.1 FM, and on a live stream.
- Oil and Gas (3/15/2022)
- Gas Prices (3/11/2022)
Greater Gardner MA & U.S. Gas Prices over 3 years.
- Oil Prices (3/8/2022)
Local Oil Prices Hit the Roof Topping $5 per gallon!
Wow! We just got these screenshots from local oil company websites in the Greater Gardner area. Lowest price just over 5 bucks per gallon. UPDATE 3/12/22 – Local home heating oil prices have dropped a bit to around $4.50 per gallon.
- Gas Price Tool (3/8/2022)
- City Council Fees 2-22-22 (2/23/2022)
Watch the February 22, 2022 Gardner MA City Council meeting on YouTube or visit our Gardner MA City Council page. CLICK HERE.
The subject of fee increases will come up again at a meeting of the whole in March with input for the Gardner MA City Council.
Will the Gardner MA City Council Increase Fees and shut off the valves of Growth, Progress, and Community Improvement or would it be a much- needed course correction?
The Gardner MA City Council is not moving hastily on the matter. A meeting of the committee as a whole will gather additional input in March regarding Fire Department, Building Department, and other fee schedules before increasing them. We have a section going in to more detail on the pros and cons of fee increases. CLICK HERE.
More News – Approved Items of Interest
The City Council rescinded its order to spend free cash for a new police department vehicle as the funds can come instead from the American Rescue Plan funds. Downtown Gardner trash containers will be replaced at a cost of $15,000. Money for the athletic fields at the high school was not immediately approved as councilors wanted more information on the project. The Witches Wardrobe was granted a second-hand goods license and now also has the first fortune teller license in the Chair City. The Ordinance increasing fines dramatically for not clearing snow in Downtown was sent to a second printing, making it a done deal.
Much Disagreement over S. Graves Lawsuit
Councilor James Boone explained that the scope of the S. Graves lawsuit against the City of Gardner concerns desired information about heating unit coils allegedly damaged by questionable city water. Boone asked why zero information is being released and why doesn’t anybody question why there are no answers. Boone motioned to ask the City Solicitor why it’s a conflict of interest to represent the City – it was defeated 4-6. The overall motion to transfer $5000 to the S Graves lawsuit account passed 6-4. Issues with Gardner water causing premature failure of heating coils continues to this day as evidenced by disgruntled residents who comment in news on Social Media.
Other Matters Before the Gardner City Council
During a brief joint convention of the City Council and School Committee, Eric Commodore was appointed to a 4 year term on the Monty Tech School Committee.
It was disputed whether the other appointment on the meeting agenda, that of an unexpired 2 term was actually a valid vacancy. The recording of the meeting was corrupted at this point so we don’t have details on how that vote turned out. Play the video, CLICK HERE
More News on the Fees
Growth Formula or Fees Too Low?
Some would argue that when things are going your way, you don’t mess with the formula. For years, the City of Gardner’s winning recipe kept various Fire Department and Building Department fees below the actual cost of the work involved, sometimes far below. Packet from last meeting with examples of other towns
In fact, when the matter was brought before the City Council, examples of fees charged by other area communities demonstrably proved that Gardner was charging far lower fees than it could. Documents proved that the fees simply were not covering the cost of the work. Gardner was subsidizing almost every building built and every home improvement made. The Chair City had its highest year ever of building permits recently with over one thousand in the recent year.
Unprecedented growth with the Subsidy
Whether it was a major contributing cause or not, the fact is the City of Gardner did have unprecedented growth during the period of this fee subsidy. The Chair City had highest total number of building permits of any year, ever.
…Many announcements of businesses choosing Gardner. …Government leaders choosing Gardner in approving grants. …The City of Gardner had begun a snowball of success with the valves of Growth, Progress, and Community Improvement seemingly wide open with a very good future ahead of the Chair City.
Argument for Increasing fees
The argument for increasing fees was this: The business desiring the service should pay for it, not the citizens of the city. And the cost of services provided by the Fire and Building Departments was not being covered by the fees charged.
Department budgets had to be increased to cover the costs. And similarly, the homeowner desiring the renovation should pay fully for the cost involved in inspections etc., which could be garnered through increased fees. Lastly, Gardner was so far below what other area communities are currently charging that the City’s success shouldn’t be affected negatively if it simply brought fees up to par.
Argument for Leaving Fees alone and continuing subsidy
The argument against increasing fees included this: The cost of subsidizing fees impacting business was far outweighed by the huge benefit to the City of Gardner MA from getting more business in a community which had been losing it before.
And the argument against increasing fees for homeowners is that when a property is improved, its assessment goes up. Those who choose not to improve or who can’t afford to improve get the benefit when their taxes are lowered, such as when the tax rate dropped substantially this year. Arguably, citizens who didn’t improve had a net financial benefit by the City incentifying others to improve with the lower fees. Arguably, the lower fees charged business was more attractive policy than some believed.
The Future will be the Judge
Time will tell whether higher fees impact negatively the amount of business or industry attracted to Gardner. History will be the judge of whether increasing fees to homeowners negatively affects the number of those who choose to improve. The future will be the judge of whether subsidizing fees for the Building and Fire Departments was pure genius that demonstrably helped Gardner, or whether the City was just flushing money down the drain.
- Real Estate (1/26/2022)
It’s a seller’s REAL ESTATE market in the Greater Gardner area.
Real Estate in Gardner MA
On January 26, 2022, there are less than 20 real estate listings for Gardner MA. For the 01440 Zillow page, CLICK HERE. On the Worcester County Craigslist Real Estate page, there were less than 500 listings. CLICK HERE. For those looking to rent, there were several hundred listings on Craigslist. CLICK HERE.
In fact, the Massachusetts Association of Realtors reports that in December 2021, there were less homes for sale than in any period in the last 17 years. See report, CLICK HERE. —- Real Estate Search, CLICK HERE.
- Supply Chain (1/20/2022)
Supply Chain Issues Not Affecting Consumer to Consumer Used Junk in Greater Gardner MA
We’ve all heard about the Supply Chain issues affecting New car and electronics prices. But what about junk? Is regularly priced junk now high priced junk? A cursory look on Craigslist says no. For example, on the Worcester County site, if you’re willing to buy a box full you can get 3 music cds or 3 VHS tapes for about a dollar, cassette tapes for about a quarter, DVD’s for about 50 cents (more or less).
In appliances, you could get an almost new washer and dryer pair for 500 bucks, a like new fridge for under 300 bucks, or even a Roomba robot vacuum for 100 dollars. If you want to save money on baby and kids stuff, there were about 500 listings. Even the FREE stuff hasn’t gone up in price due to inflation. There are about 300 listings for FREE things. We even saw a beautiful antique-style couch being sold for Zero, as in FREE. So if it doesn’t have to be perfect or BRAND NEW, and sometimes if you don’t mind paying NOTHING at all, the Supply Chain of Used Junk (Stuff) is very healthy and budget friendly.
- Moving Here (1/18/2022)
Moving to the Greater Gardner MA area
If you’re relocating to the Greater Gardner MA area, you’ll likely want to know about the availability of various needs in your community. Our Moving to the Area Guide covers utilities, housing and home, transportation and taxes, municipal services, financial services, education, vices, medical, outdoor activity and exercise, shopping, entertainment and social, and attractions.
Moving to Area Guide page, CLICK HERE
- Budget Dog (1/1/2022)
Greater Gardner MA Budget Dog
Gardner Magazine’s Budget Dog has some great tips for saving money in 2022. Save on cable, phone, electric, cars, internet, water, and so much more. For the complete article, CLICK HERE
- Trash Talk (11/27/2021)
Greater Gardner MA Trash Talk
Solutions for trash and recycling after making all those Small Business and Holiday purchases. What do you do with the old TV, mattress, furniture, or tires? Complete information, CLICK HERE
- Streaming Deals (11/24/2021)
Black Friday Streaming Deals 2021
After you do all your local shopping, you might want to sit down, relax, and watch tv. Our readers can get a year of hulu for 99 cents per month or any of a number of other deals for cheap money. CLICK HERE.
- Unemployment Rate (7/12/2021)
Return to the Gardner MA Work Force
Gardner residents continue to return to the work force. While the Gardner – Fitchburg – Leominster unemployment rate is hovering at 7% and is 3.2% higher than the March 30, 2020 rate of 3.8%, it is much lower than the pandemic high of 17.6% reported for April 2020.
The Massachusetts Unemployment rate before the pandemic was 2.7%, but that quickly rose to 16.4% one month later as reported for April 2020. The current Massachusetts unemployment rate is still higher than before the pandemic and is hovering around 6%. Each of the charts can be viewed in large size by clicking the image.