Photo: Ellen Schrieber, a co-chair of the Yes for Belmont committee.
Endorsing a recommendation to stabilize school funding and help fund road repairs, Belmont voters came out in big numbers to support a $4.5 million Proposition 2 1/2 override during the annual Town Election on Tuesday, April 7.
With a little more than half of all registered voters taking ballots, the “yes” for Question 1 received 4,728 votes, nearly a 900 vote margin over the 3,836 “no” votes.
“We are so grateful to the hundreds of volunteers who made this happen,” said Ellen Schreiber, one of the co-chairs of the “Yes for Belmont” campaign that spearheaded the effort to pass the override.
“The turnout was unbelievable and serves as a tangible reminder of why this is a truly special community,” she said.
Securing a “yes” victory came from two of Belmont’s precincts, 1 and 6 where the yes’ swamped the no vote by 328 and 338 votes.
The “No” side could only take three of the eight precincts (precincts 2, 4, and 8) with margins never reaching triple figures.
After more than a dozen years since the last time voters endorsed hiking property taxes were ready to pony up an average extra $650 a year (on a house assessed at $847,000) for stable school funding and road repair for at least three years. Supporters believe the funds can be stretched up to five years.
Selectman Mark Paolillo, who headed the Task Force, said he viewed the override “as more than just a three year commitment. The [new funds] will sustain us for many years in the future.”
Schreiber agreed with Paolillo, stating the Yes Committee is “thrilled that the town of Belmont has voted to protect our town for future generations.”
“This is the first step in a strategic plan, outlined by the Financial Task Force, that will move Belmont toward more financial stability in the future,” she said.
Since Proposition 2 1/2 was approved by state voters in 1980 (the law went into effect in 1982), Belmont voters have approved half of six override measures on the ballot, the last two “yes” votes were in May 2001 ($3 million) and April 2002 ($2.4 million) for school and town operating expenses.
Before Tuesday’s vote, registered voters rejected the last attempt at an override, a $2 million schools, public safety and roads in June 2010.
The override was recommended by the Financial Task Force, a group created by the Belmont Board of Selectmen in 2014, which sought to secure extra funding to fill a growing deficit – $1.7 million in fiscal year 2016 – facing the Belmont School District due to skyrocketing enrollment and higher expenses, in part due to unfunded state mandates.
Paolillo said he would be reaching out to the leadership of the group who worked to defeat the measure.
“We have to bring the people who voted ‘no’ with the ‘yes’ voters to work together to move us forward,” said Paolillo, and bring them into the Financial Task Force fold.
“This was a spirited campaign, and we want to acknowledge the hard work put in by our opponents. We share the same of goal: making sure Belmont thrives; though we differ about how to achieve that goal,” said Schreiber.
[Update: In an earlier version of this article, it was incorrectly reported the “no” vote received the majority of ballots cast in Precinct 7. That was incorrect; the “yes” side prevailed in the precinct.]