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Newton Mayor Setti Warren urges support for tax increases in annual city address

Posted by Leslie Anderson  February 4, 2013 09:21 PM

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Newton Mayor Setti Warren used his State of the City address Monday to rally support for his $11.4 million tax proposal, five weeks ahead of the vote on March 12.

In his fourth and final address of his first term as mayor, Warren urged residents to vote in favor of the Proposition 2 1/2 override package to pay for new schools and buildings, to upgrade roads, and to hire more teachers.

“We also must recognize that the time is now to make sure our city doesn’t deteriorate further, and that the quality of life here does not decrease,” Warren said. “If we decide to do nothing at this time, we stand to lose the community that we know and love.”

If voters approve the three separate ballot measures, taxes on a house with the city’s median assessment of $686,000 would go up by about $343, to $8,006, Newton officials estimate.

Newton voters haven’t passed an override of Proposition 2 1/2 since 2002. And this proposal comes as the governor and Massachusetts legislators debate raising a wide array of state taxes.

Warren, who will face reelection in November, argued that his administration has improved Newton’s financial health and now needs the money to ensure that the city takes care of its aging schools, roads, and growing student enrollment.

“I think we’ve done extraordinary work in the last four years,” Warren said in an interview Monday morning.

Warren’s speech focused on his administration’s achievements, but left unmentioned some of its challenges this past year, including the scandals that rocked the police department.

Former police chief Matthew Cummings was fired last October for unbecoming behavior after an internal investigation alleged that he made boorish remarks to female employees. The police department was in the news again after five officers egged their superior’s house in December.

Those incidents don’t reflect the work of most Newton police officers, Warren said.

“I made a decision last summer to remove the police chief. It was the right move for the police department and it was the right move for the city,” Warren said in the interview. “I am confident in a short time to have the right leadership.”

Newton is in the middle of a search for a new police chief and officials are reviewing the applications from five internal candidates. The new leadership should help steer the department in the right direction, Warren said.

While he touted his record as mayor, Warren said, it will be up to the voters in November to decide if he has led the city in the right direction.

Deirdre Fernandes can be reached at deirdre.fernandes@globe.com.

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