Photo: Supporter of the schools override.
To the editor:
How do we want to spend the 2015 override funds?
Next Tuesday, Belmont voters will decide whether to spend $335,000 to $500,000 per year (or more) to fund the $144 million new Minuteman debt.
I am a school advocate. I strongly support vocational education.
But this referendum is not a vote about education. If Belmont votes No, we can continue to give our students the same Minuteman education, for less money.
This is a vote about debt.
The debt could be funded through a 30-year tax increase, but I believe that it will not pass. Any tax increase is always a hard sell.
Without a tax increase, we would have to use override funds.
Override funds are currently being used to support our operating budget, as promised. But if we take on the Minuteman debt, without new taxes, it will hit our operating budget and prematurely drain the override funds.
If we vote “No” now, and only now, we have a chance to avoid the debt. Belmont is currently a member of the Minuteman district. If we vote “No”, Belmont Town Meeting will have the opportunity to vote to become a non-member.
Member towns pay much more than non-member towns. In 2017, Belmont will pay $30,602 per student, compared to $19,702 by non-member towns, and it will only get worse when you add debt payments for the new $144 million Minuteman.
Michael Libenson, chair of the Warrant Committee, presented his analysis on Monday night that shows Belmont will likely save $200,000 to $400,000 in tuition and capital charges by sending our students to Minuteman as a non-member. (The presentation is available at www.betterplanforbelmont.com.)
In other words, it will cost Belmont an additional $200,000 to $400,000 every year to remain a member. To pay that annual membership premium, we would likely have to tap our override funds.
What Belmont decides should not impact the new school. Most of the remaining nine towns have already lined up their funding. They will vote for it. The referendum is expected to pass. The school will then be built.
Belmont is left with few options. We tried to fix broken district, but the non-member towns won’t join. We tried to right-size the new school, but we were rebuffed.
Now, we need to get out. If Belmont signs on to the $144 million debt, it will squeeze our budget for the next 30 years.
An analogy I think is helpful: Why would we want to “own a new building” (and 30 years of debt payments), when we could “rent ~30 seats” at Minuteman for less money? Why would we choose to pay more, when we could pay less for the same services?
We worked hard to pass the 2015 override. Let’s not use it up more quickly than we have to.
Please join me in voting “No” next Tuesday.
Ellen Schreiber, Sandrick Road
Ellen Schreiber is a member of the Warrant Committee and Town Meeting Member.