Town Meeting Preview: Warrant Briefing on Leaving Minuteman Monday

Photo: Warrant Committee Chair Michael Libenson.

A warrant briefing on the Special Town Meeting to determine if Belmont will withdraw from the Minuteman School District will be held tonight, Monday, Oct. 17, at 7 p.m. in the Chenery Middle School auditorium, 95 Washington St.

The briefing, co-sponsored by the League of Women Voters and the Warrant Committee – Town Meeting’s financial watchdog – will include town officials and department heads providing information and answer citizen inquire concerning the article.

In May, Town Meeting voted by a little more than a 2/3 margin to  approve leaving the Minuteman School District due to an ongoing dispute with the administration on the size and scale of a new $145 million building. 

In September, Belmont was the only member community to vote against the project in a special district-wide election.

Warrant Committee Chair Michael Libenson will moderate the event. 

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Comments

  1. Madeliene Marino says

    Hi,
    Town Meeting Members have been placed in the unenviable
    position, once again, of having to cast a vote on Oct. 19, 2016
    either in favor or in opposition to the Town remaining as a
    Member Town of the Minuteman Regional Vocational/Tech
    School District. It will require a 2/3 majority opposition vote
    by Town Meeting in order to allow Belmont to withdraw from
    the District.

    The 2 linked Articles in the above Belmontonian Article point
    out the outcome of the last two previous votes taken by Town
    Meeting and by Belmont Voters concerning this issue as
    follows:

    (1) In May, 2016, “by a little more than a 2/3 margin,” “Belmont
    Town Meeting Rejects $144 Million Minuteman Funding Project,”
    with a final vote count of 141 Town Meeting Members opposed
    and 81 Town Meeting Members in favor. At this meeting, it
    should be noted that the Board of Selectmen (unanimously)
    recommended “unfavorable action” for the passage of the
    Article.

    (2) On September 20, 2016, “Belmont Voters Reject Minuteman
    Funding As District Passes New School Plan.” ” It wasn’t even
    close. Belmont voters rejected by a near three-to-one margin a
    $100 million-plus funding plan for the construction of a new
    $145 million Minuteman Tech Regional School” which would have
    involved a 30 year debt exclusion. “According to Town Clerk Ellen
    Cushman, Belmont residents voted down the funding measure
    2,327 to 901, 72 percent to 28 percent.”

    Since both, a prior Town Meeting and the Electorate, voted
    overwhelmingly not to fund a new Minuteman Tech via a 30 year
    debt exclusion, how exactly would the Town go about paying for a
    new Minuteman Tech along with the associated higher tuition costs
    that Member Towns are assessed, if this Town Meeting votes to stay in
    the District?

    Towards the end of the televised ” Facts and Future,” sponsored by
    the Minuteman Regional Vocational Technical School District at the
    Beech Street Center, a Town Meeting Member, I believe, did mention
    that a repeat debt exclusion vote would be required if Town Meeting
    voted to stay in the District.

    Who actually believes that the residents of Belmont would change
    their vote in a second debt exclusion for the same issue? Who
    believes that the residents would vote for another Proposition 2 1/2
    override? Where then, would the money come from? Would the
    Town have to cut services, or lay off employees? What would happen
    to the School Department’s Budget, since it is their budget that pays
    all Minuteman costs and tuition? What would happen to our upcoming
    new Belmont High School 30 year debt exclusion vote that we
    desperately need to pass?

    I believe that Town Meeting has a fiduciary responsibility to Belmont
    to only vote in favor of this issue if there is money to pay for it.
    Otherwise, their vote in favor of staying in the District, against
    the stated will of the town’s people, will lock our town into 30 years of
    debt that the Electorate has already rejected.

    Town Meeting does not have the authority to call for a debt exclusion
    vote, only a majority vote of the Selectmen, as the “local appropriating
    body” has the authority to place a Proposition 2 1/2 or debt exclusion
    question on the election ballot. Therefore, a Town Meeting vote
    in favor of remaining in the District would basically force our Selectmen,
    who are against us remaining in the District, to place a 30 year debt
    exclusion question on a ballot in the future, despite the fact that they
    would already know that there would be very little likelihood that it
    would pass.

    As was discussed prior to the September 20th Town wide vote, the
    School Department will continue to completely support the
    Vocational/Technical aspirations of our Belmont Students.

    If our town had a larger tax base, more free cash, fewer existing debts
    and not so many future town buildings and town departments that
    need to be replaced or renovated, it would be a completely different
    story with perhaps a completely different outcome.

    In the mean time, I believe that it is the responsibility of our Town
    Meeting Members to question where the money will come from to
    pay for this very expensive Project. If there is no viable, long term way
    for the town to fund this on-going debt, then I believe Town Meeting
    Members must vote to leave the District.

    Even beyond that, I truly believe that Town Meeting Members should,
    in a Democracy, honor the previous town-wide majority vote by the
    people of this town who voted that they would not fund a 30 year
    debt exclusion, by casting their vote to withdraw from the District so that
    the necessary 2/3 vote to leave the District can be achieved at Town Meeting.

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