FOCUS GROUP SUMMARY

#10 – Cost of Living in Falmouth

The Vision and Values Cost of Living in Falmouth Focus Group met virtually on September 21, with 18 participants attending the session. Future iQ introduced the format of discussion for the evening, the purpose being to explore the three questions below as they related to the topic of cost of living in Falmouth.

Participants were randomly assigned to breakout groups of 5-8 and asked to report back to the large group. The following paper synthesizes participant notes and live discussion of these questions; it concludes with some initial insights on the role the cost of living may play in planning for the future of Falmouth.

1. What are the key things we are learning about this topic - from the surveys, background information, future trends, and Discussion Board comments?

  • Survey results seem to indicate residents favor amenities over tax breaks.
  • There are many concerns that those on fixed income will outlive their resources, especially after recent reevaluation of tax bills. The risk of increasing the tax burden on fixed income households is that they may be forced to leave Town or rent. 
  • Affordable housing for those downsizing and young people starting out in their 20-30’s is much needed.
  • The value of the schools is seen as circular – they are a valuable asset whether or not you have kids in school – they make the community desirable. A balance is struck between the contribution of people with kids in schools and post-kids (cycle of life).

2. What are the one or two important potential future-splitting decisions or issues facing Falmouth, related to this topic; and, what are the implications and trade-offs of these different future directions?

 *(Definition of a future-splitting decision or issue: Something that represents a fork in the road, where future outcomes are significantly shaped by the decision or direction)

  • Ideas to deal with the dichotomy of Taxes vs. Services/Amenities: We could go to more of an ala cart system; prioritize tradeoffs reflective of cohorts; accept payments for volunteer time (tax credits); rely on donors – advertise potential areas in need of funding. Donors could occasionally contribute toward public benefit or civic benefit if we advertise monetary causes and line items.
  • Future-splitting topic of Costs vs. Taxes: We need to find alternative sources of revenue; to what extent do we lean in to encouraging commercial development to balance costs? A shift may include the reevaluation of properties increasing the burden on residential taxpayers.
  • Future-splitting topic of commercial development vs. residential community. How can we improve affordability and accessibility for residents? Suggestions included use of AirBnB and promoting Falmouth as a vacation destination location.

3. With regards to this focus group topic, where is the future ‘sweet spot’ for Falmouth?

*(Definition of a sweet spot: An optimal point or combination of factors or qualities)

  • Sweet spot: Look at zoning to allow more commercial multifamily dwellings instead of reducing. This would make more accessible housing available. Overall, we need to be more caring for the less fortunate – raise the visibility of our services to people. 
  • A sweet spot is knowing how to balance the push-pulls. It is important to know the predictability and consistency of cost of living to get buy-in from community members on the big ideas needed to push the community forward. Big ticket items require consensus and forethought.
  • Finding a way to help people stay in their homes while on fixed income would be a sweet spot for Falmouth.
  • A sweet spot would be to create a better set of metrics to measure costs and payoffs; a change in paradigm; can we compare economies of scale on a regional basis?

Consultant’s Insights:

  • As the community evolves, residents will need to wrestle with the trajectory of commercial development. 
  • Macro trend is that communities are increasing services, not reducing; communities are looking creatively at ways to expand the pie.
  • There is a reassessment of metrics going on in society; metrics are becoming broader to include happiness, loneliness, and wellbeing. People are examining what is the future state we want to find ourselves in and how do we measure it?

MORE INFORMATION​

For more information about the Town of Falmouth Vision and Values project, please contact:

David Beurle, CEO
Future iQ
Phone: (612) 757-9190
david@future-iq.com

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