Candidate Q & A: Jackie Belf-Becker, Select Board

The following represents the candidate’s responses to the Current’s Select Board-specific questions. Jump back to Election Guide

Years in Marblehead: 49 years 

Occupation/education: Special education attorney in my private practice; hearing officer at Bureau of Special Education Appeals for Commonwealth of Massachusetts, director of BSEA, Commonwealth of Massachusetts; Franklin and Marshall College, graduated in three years; New England School of Law, member of Massachusetts Bar

Appointed positions and/or elected offices: Served five-and-a-half years on Marblehead School Committee, three as chair; 18 years on Marblehead Select Board, 13 years as chair

What are the three reasons/issues motivating your decision to run for election? 

  • I love this town and love serving on the Select Board.
  • If I am re-elected, I will keep the Board focused on making sure that we are fixing our issues. This is not a time for changing direction.
  • I enjoy the interaction with the public and volunteer groups and I try to facilitate solutions if needed.

Do you believe the $2.5 million override will pass? How are you actively persuading the town to support it? In the event that it does not pass, what alternatives do you propose?

I certainly hope so because this override of $2,472,056 will stabilize our finances, including the general fund, fire department, police, public works, building inspection, health and waste, Select Board and the schools. I know that we are working on long-term goals and with an override, services that could be cut would be reinstated. If the override does not pass, we will be tightening our belts and will have to adapt to a decrease in services. 

What measures would you propose to increase our town’s revenues without excessively burdening taxpayers?

There are many grants that we can access. In addition, the licensing of the two marijuana establishments will soon be ready to generate funds for the town.

How would you ensure the long-term financial health of our town, extending beyond the immediate deficit?

We need to build up the stabilization fund. In addition, the town was awarded the Distinguished Budget Award in January of 2022. The town had participated in the Government Finance Officers Association, which encourages departments used for goals and objectives for the upcoming fiscal year. The town will continue to integrate GFOA concepts fully into the budget culture and process. The Select Board procured financial software and contracted Clear.Gov’s cloud-based budget. It is a more user-friendly option. We also contracted with ePlus, a technology company to upgrade and manage its information technology. Utilizing virtual tools allows residents to host hybrid meetings, in places such as the Select Board Meeting Room and the Mary Alley Conference Room.

Could you share your philosophy on maintaining reserves and their significance in situations like the present budget deficit?

At this time, my philosophy is to build up our reserves and not utilize them. I want to maintain our AAA bond rating because it serves to lower our borrowing costs.

What areas of municipal government do you think the town could give more attention to?  

We are in a mental health crisis. It’s important to offer services to our residents to help them to overcome their individual issues. There is also much work taking place to have the best practices in our financial endeavors through our Finance Director, our Treasurer and our Town Administrator plus their teams in our rejuvenated town-wide efforts.

As real estate prices continue to soar, Marblehead homes appear increasingly unaffordable for many police officers, teachers and other public servants. This also affects those who grew up in town but cannot afford to return “home.” To what extent do you consider this a problem, and what potential solutions can you propose?

This is a problem that I think about often. We have to focus on establishing living environments that are accessible and affordable. For example, converting empty schools into affordable housing and under-utilized municipal buildings. Other possible options would include ADUs, accessory dwelling units, and zoning changes. I definitely consider this a problem. Unfortunately, Marblehead has limited open space and is considered such a desirable place to live. Real estate prices are still soaring.

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