, Salem, MA

January 10, 2014

Letter: Salem can be healthy without power plant

The Salem News

---- — To the editor:

Hurray! Massachusetts was the ranked the most energy-efficient state in 2013 (Source: ACEEE Energy Score Card)! Furthermore, thanks to investments in energy efficiency, Massachusetts is forecasted to use the same amount of energy in 2021 as it did last year (Source: ISO-New England). And it gets better. The state, which is the largest energy user in Massachusetts, plans to conserve resources by reducing its energy consumption by $43 million annually (Source: Boston Globe). So, tell me again why the Salem power plant is so important? Let’s face it — it’s not about energy; it’s about tax revenue. Salem stands to lose about $4 million a year in tax revenue, and our administration fears it can’t balance the budget without it. However, I’m pretty sure we can.

Salem has lower average residential assessments than most of our neighboring towns. So, our administration is using a power plant to supplement our weak tax base. However, the catch is that the gritty power plant is one of the stigmas compromising our real estate values in the first place. Meanwhile, Salem’s obvious strength is that it’s one of the best-situated, most beautiful seaside towns on the North Shore. So, what should we be focusing on? Supporting a power plant that compromises that strength? Or supporting our town’s real estate values?

Well, the power plant only brings in about 5 percent of our annual tax revenue. But the big bang for our buck comes from our residential real estate, which comprises more than 75 percent. If Salem pursued a strategy to strengthen residential values through better schools and a rebranded image, a small rise in real estate values could make up for the lost power plant revenue. Mix in some low-impact commercial development, and who needs the power plant? Our neighboring towns are doing just fine without one.

It’s disingenuous to argue that the power plant is needed to support the grid. Data clearly shows that it isn’t. And I believe Salem’s tax base would be stronger without it, as well.

Jennifer Firth