Tonight I went before the Newbury Board of Selectmen to ask them to consider adopting Mass General Law – Chapter 59 Section 5N ‘Reduction of Property Tax Obligation of Veteran in Exchange for Volunteer Services’. For the town to adopt this section it will need to go before Town Meeting for vote. I did ask the Board of Selectmen to consider moving forward and encouraged them to form a ‘work group’ with various stakeholders including myself.
As a Newbury resident, with several thousands hours of community service already achieved in my life I have seen the difference one person or a group of volunteers can make. Volunteers come with valuable skills that when put to use can have a lasting impact.
The Town of Newbury has already adopted the Senior Tax-Abatement Program which engages senior citizens in town to work off a portion of their property tax through volunteerism. We also have students in our school system who are required to do some community service in order to graduate. As a resident, I’ve seen these opportunities work; senior citizens become engaged in the community, and I’ve seen young people eager to get involved in projects or events. If the task gives a sense of purpose and pride it makes it that much more fulfilling.
Art students volunteered their time after school to paint a flag depository box for the community, 65 students volunteered their free time to do clean up in the community, a 12 year old girl from another town came to clean and reset a veteran’s headstone and wants to do more, I’ve seen seniors seeking to do work with a purpose; work they can be proud of. Newbury residents come together to create the Byfield Music & Arts Festival, an outstanding community event that brings joy, music and art together – all to support a non-profit organization.
There are services that resident would like to have restored and reoccurring issues that should be addressed – we lack lifeguards on Plum Island, our beach has a massive litter problem – the dumpsters are always overflowing and there’s trash and dog waste everywhere, cemeteries caretakers are coming to the town for help with maintenance, and these are just a few examples of unresolved issues. I asked the Board of Selectman, can these be addressed through folks within the community – through some community program or with some incentive.
I asked the Selectmen to take the first step, let’s put this law in motion and the conversation on the table. As they are the governing authority for the town, I asked them can we make this work? What do we have to lose by trying? I feel we have a lot to gain as a community.
Can we better our town by volunteerism?