‘No’ Committee Gives Reasons to Why It Opposes ‘Mega’ Override

A committee formed to oppose the Proposition 2 1/2 override on the April 7 Town Election ballot stated it does not believe the $4.5 million increase in taxes is not in the best long-term interest “of the residents, the schools or the town,” according to a press release from the group.

The statement (which is in its entirety below) from the Vote NO on Ballot Question 1 Committee sets out in a series of highlighted paragraphs its argument against the override measure to be decide in less than two weeks. 

Dubbing the ballot question “the mega override,” the committee – headed by chair Elizabeth Allison and treasurer Raffi Manjikian – argues the override, which is a recommendation from the Financial Task Force in January and placed on the Town Election ballot by the Belmont Board of Selectmen in February – believes its passage would cripple the currently level of diversity in town by forcing middle-class families to abandon Belmont due to the spike in real estate taxes.

The committee also question many of the fiscal assumptions made by the Task Force underpinning  the override; instead supporting “good alternatives” which contend the town can raise the necessary funds to fill major funding gaps facing the schools – the School District state due to skyrocketing enrollment and other expenses the town’s schools face a $1.7 million deficit in fiscal 2016 – as it has in 10 of the past 13 annual budget cycles. 

The press release from the committee: 

A group of committed town volunteers and Town Meeting Members has formed a ballot question committee, “Vote NO on Ballot Question 1 Committee” and provided the following statement:

“We have come together because we cherish this town and do not believe that the mega override of $4.5 million is in the best interest of the residents, the schools or the town.  We have formed the “Vote NO on ballot Question 1 Committee” to:

Highlight the impact on the town’s character of the likely tax increases.  Of the many things to cherish about Belmont, one of the best is the true diversity of the town.  Inequality may have triumphed elsewhere, but Belmont still affordable with great public services that all enjoy equally.  Doubling tax bills over the next twelve years will change that forever.

Lay out the full financial costs of the tax increases that for the average homeowner both next year and thereafter.   Starting in fiscal year July 2016 (begins July 1, 2015) the average homeowner’s tax bill will increase by $206 without the override but by $854 with – a 4x difference.  With  no commitments to manage costs, another mega override will be required in 2017 -18, and again in 2020 -21. These increases do not include the costs of debt overrides that will be needed to renovate our high school, build a police station or a new DPW building that meets minimum standards. 

Provide voters with solid facts and research on the financial situation of the town and the current state of the schools. For example, very few residents, just listening to what’s being said about surging enrollment, would realize that over the last three years, the school budget has grown at a rate 50% higher than enrollment (annual 3.9% budget vs. 2.6% increase in enrollment.  Similarly, the Financial Task Force projection of looming deficits assumes state aid declining by -1.1% per year  while over the last 10 years it has grown at 2.4% We want to help voters judge whether this is a real crisis or “a crisis of assumptions.” 

Show that there are good alternatives to a mega override that protect the schools and preserve the town.  For 10 out of the last 13 years, the early draft of the town budget showed a major gap between the needs of the schools and available revenue. In 2011, for example, the gap was approximately $2 million in early spring. It was closed by identifying $1.3 million in additional revenue and $564,000 in cost savings. We will show how this approach can be applied again.

Remind voters that the ballot question is on the back of the ballot. Voters need to turn over the ballot and vote (ideally No) to have a voice. 

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  1. Jim Williams says

    Carl Sagan calls for skeptical thinking and rigorous questioning when new ideas are offered for consideration. I’m all for that. He also cautions against unlearning and common pitfalls of common sense so that society knows what not to do or what not to succumb to. One of these is the so called Straw Man whereby a position is caricatured to make it easier to attack. Unfortunately, the No Committee has tagged the override with a “Mega” as a Straw Man when they know perfectly well that the proposed amount was determined by the FTF’s forecasted budget deficits for the period 2016 thru 2019. Such shenanigans only serve to confuse the issue and are, consequently, not very useful. Instead, Sagan advises “substantive debate on the evidence by knowledgeable proponents from all points of view” and “independent confirmation of the facts… wherever possible”. I’m all for that too.

  2. Idith Kisin says

    Jane – the extra 1.3% in the school budget increase can be explained by inflation, which was 1.73% over the past 3 years. I’m pretty sure that the economists on the “NO for Belmont’ committee know this. If they are truly concerned about the school budget, they are welcome to run for school committee.

  3. Jane Rosenzweig says

    As a strong supporter of YES for Belmont, I had a number of questions about this statement–especially about the way the school budget is being portrayed and about the idea that there are alternatives that would preserve the quality of our schools.. I discovered that there is a lively discussion of this statement on the Belmontonian facebook page that other readers may be interested in. Commenters there highlight the deep cuts that have already been made to our schools in past years to close the budget gap.

  4. Anne Mahon says

    I find it astounding that the members of the Warrant Committee (now calling themselves the party of No) who have been able to give financial recommendations to the town of Belmont for years as the decision makers, and who are partly responsible for the financial crisis we are in now, don’t want to follow the recommendations of a committee that had to be appointed by the Selectmen.

    The Financial Task Force, after all the destruction and disintegration of Belmont took it upon themselves to come up with a long term plan when no solution was offered by the Warrant Committee. This group of neighbors are actually volunteers from Belmont, citizens of Belmont, who have a TRUE and PROVEN FINANCIAL BACKGROUND. They have volunteered countless hours to come up with a REAL LONG TERM PLAN that will keep the cuts from happening to our town and schools and the negative impact we see now from continuing on.

    While the Warrant Committee No Group may be upset and want to push back, what they need to understand is that it is their positions and decisions on their Committee caused this mess. We hate potholes and bad sidewalks, we don’t want teachers losing their jobs and having children graduate from our Belmont Public schools and then having a hard time getting into good colleges from lack of skills. We want investment in our community.

    As a community we get that we are worth the investment and don’t need to languish any further. …that our property values are worth keeping up.

    The Financial Task Force was appointed when the citizenry realized that no long term plan was ever going to be developed by the Warrant Committee and going from budget year to budget year with cuts in programs annually was unacceptable.

    We realize their feelings are hurt by being replaced, but they can’t take it out on the residents of Belmont by opposing what is so desperately needed. We will vote for the Override and we will bring Belmont back to what she deserves to be. We owe her that. VOTE YES!

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