Selectmen Discuss Dates for Minuteman Vote And A Possible Escape

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Photo: The possibility of an election and a Special Town Meeting.

With a vote in 16 communities to decide the future of the Minuteman Tech Regional High School less than two months away, the Belmont Board of Selectmen unveiled the tentative dates the town will discuss, vote and possibly severe its ties with the vocational school the town has sent its students for nearly five decades.

“This is a first step regarding coming to a conclusion of the Minuteman High School project and its financing,” David Kale, Belmont’s town administrator, told Selectmen on Monday, July 25.

In May, a Special Town Meeting voted against Minuteman’s $145 million financing plan as it was deemed too large for the limited number of students coming from district schools. 

• Monday, Sept. 12: The Belmont League of Women Voters and the town’s Warrant Committee will jointly hold an informational meeting at 7 p.m. at the Beech Street Center, 266 Beech St., where questions can be asked by voters to town and school officials. It could also be the date the Selectmen can make a recommendation on the plan’s passage or defeat. 

• Tuesday, Sept. 20: The district-wide vote on the project’s financing will take place between noon and 8 p.m. at Belmont’s seven polling stations. When the district-wide vote was first announced in mid-July, Minuteman officials – who are paying for the election – announced that each town would be voting at a single polling location (in Belmont at the High School’s field house) to keep expenses to approximately $11,000. 

But that plan was scuttled after both Arlington and Belmont protested the move, accusing it of an attempt to suppress voter turnout for no real cost savings.

“That was a good solution so not to cause disruptions at the high school,” which would be in session, said Kale. 

If Belmont votes against the bonding scheme, but the district-wide vote is in favor, the Selectmen will have 60 days to call and hold a Special Town Meeting to vote to withdraw from the district. 

• Monday, Sept. 26: 

“You’ll have to make some decisions depending what transpired in September,” said Kale at the first board meeting after the election. 

If the board does call for a Special Town Meeting, Town Meeting member can expect the following October dates to be put into play. 

• The week Monday, Oct. 10: The League of Women Voters will hold an informational and precinct meetings. 

• Wednesday, Oct. 19: Kale said the town has tentatively set the day for the Special Town Meeting, likely at the Chenery Middle School, as the first available date that it can be done. 

If the town votes to remove itself from the district but the other 15 voting member town refuse, Belmont will remain in the group but will not be responsible for the additional debt service, said Kale.

Currently, the town would be responsible for between $350,000 to $500,000 in annual assessments to build the new $145 million school. 

Mark Paolillo, Selectmen’s chair, said as part of the board’s deliberation, it will need to be informed by Belmont’s School Superintendent, John Phelan, “on alternatives for those students now attending Minuteman.”

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Comments

  1. Madeliene says

    After having followed this story for some time, I am glad to read that there may be a way out for the Tax Payers of Belmont from being held responsible for between $350,000 to $500,000 in annual assessments for the life of the Financing Plan on a new $145 million Minuteman Tech Regional High School that our Town Meeting Members have already voted down.

    However, since this loophole requires that a majority of Belmont Voters vote “No” to the “bonding scheme” on September 20, 2016, I hope that the Selectmen will provide all residents with the information they will need to
    make an informed decision, including, but not limited, to the following:
    (1) That the proposed school building project is far too large for the
    number of students currently enrolled;
    (2) That if the new school is built where the current playing fields are
    located, then there will be additional costs for constructing new
    playing fields on the demolition site of the current School Building;
    (3) That the Town will still have to pay the annual tuition cost of
    educating our students at Minuteman Tech;
    (4) That our students should be able to continue their education at
    Minuteman Tech (even if we opt out), just by paying their tuition cost
    which is how other students from surrounding towns (for example
    Watertown) are able to attend even though they are not member
    towns, because Minuteman Tech already needs more students
    than are currently enrolled;
    (5) That the average Belmont homeowner’s annual real estate taxes
    would increase by (?) if we are forced to pay for this project;
    (6) That if we are forced to pay for the Minuteman Tech Building Project,
    how will it effect the financing rate at which the Town can
    borrow for the construction of a new Belmont High School next
    year?

    Thanks to the Belmontonian for once again being the first to report this important news story!

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