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.”