Photo: Robert Mahoney (right) of Belmont Savings Bank with Ellen Schreiber.
As the Belmont Board of Selectmen prepare to discuss tonight, Tuesday, Feb. 17, a recommendation from the Financial Task Force for a possible property tax increase to fund the town’s structural budget deficit, one of Belmont’s leading business leaders has threw his support behind the town’s school district as it faces substantial cuts in staff and programs under current budget assumptions for next year.
Belmont Savings Bank’s President and CEO Robert Mahoney wrote a comment to an article in the Belmontonian (Belmont Schools Face ‘Significant, Negative Impact’ in Fiscal ’16 Budget; Loss of 22 Positions, Larger Class Sizes, Feb. 12) that highlighted a pending $1.7 million gap in the district’s fiscal 2016 budget if the schools are required to work within the available revenue that the town has calculated for next year.
Mahoney is the first prominent individual outside of the district to speak out concerning the negative impact on Belmont from possible inaction in securing the necessary funding to keep town schools high ranked.
“[Belmont Superintendent] John Phelan is so right. It took decades for Belmont’s schools to become top tier. At the rate we are going we will be third tier soon,” Mahoney bluntly wrote in a comment posted Feb. 14.
“Once the parents of high potential students move out, and they will, the biggest economic engine in Belmont will sputter to mediocrity and property values will quickly follow the schools down. This is not theory. This pattern has happened over and over in short-sighted communities that have not invested in their future,” Mahoney wrote.
In the past few years, Belmont Savings has become more involved in Belmont, starting a foundation to assist organizations and individuals funding community activities. The most prominent of those was the foundation’s donation of $200,000 this fall that jump started a community drive to raise $400,000 to start construction of a new Underwood Pool adjacent to Concord Avenue.
At Tuesday’s Board of Selectmen meeting – at 6 p.m. in the Selectmen’s room at Town Hall – the board will join up with the Belmont School Committee for a presentation from the district concerning the pending $1.7 million deficit in the pending fiscal ’16 available revenue budget totaling $47.5 million. In two previous public meetings to discuss the budget, Phelan has said the rapid increase in enrollment over the past five years and for years to come has sent expenses skyrocketing as the district. Phelan has advocated the selectmen call for, and voters pass a three-year, $4.5 million Proposition 2 1/2 override to fund the gap.
After the budget meeting, the Selectmen will reconvene to discuss placing an override before voters. If it decides to move in that direction, the board will also have to set a date for the override vote.