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.