Opinion: Belmont’s ‘No’ Nothings; The Override Offers Voters a Choice: Financial Planning, or Finger Pointing?

Photo: Torn textbook.
By Paul Roberts
 
We didn’t need Warrant Committee member Adam Dash to hold up a student’s tattered, 20 year old text book, as he did at last week’s Candidate’s Night debate, to grasp the depths to which our Town of Homes has fallen. Nor did we need him to heft the softball sized piece of pavement dislodged from a pothole outside his home to appreciate the truth of what he was saying: Belmont has woefully neglected in its infrastructure, schools and town services for too long.

We understand the truth of what Adam said viscerally. As parents, we have seen our own children’s classes swell even as course offerings shrivel and fees jump. We crouch in decrepit carols at the crowded Belmont Public Library and skate around the bird droppings at the Viglirolo ice rink. Our cars drop into cavernous potholes.

If these are problems for you, as they are for me, then you expect and deserve to be told how your vote – “YES” or “NO” –on the proposed $4.5 million Proposition 2 ½ override will help to address those problems.

Our town’s leadership has a clear answer and a plan based on research and study by the Financial Task Force. It was the Task Force that recommended passage of the $4.5million override as a first step to putting Belmont back on track. In brief: revenue from the override will fund a yearly increase in investments in road and sidewalk repair. It will hire and retain teachers to keep course offerings in place and allow Belmont to add classes to respond to a sharp increase in student enrollment. Money will be set aside to create a budget stabilization fund to address future needs. This is the plan and vision that the YES for Belmont campaign is working to realize.

In contrast, the “No Override” campaign that has emerged in recent weeks has no plan for addressing those issues. Not only does the group not have a plan, they don’t even have an explanation for the problems that face our Town of Homes.

What the No campaign does offer is a lot of folksy sayings. Campaign Treasurer, Mr. Raffi Manjikian, speaking opposite Mr. Dash at Candidates Night, said that after Belmont voters rejected the override, the town would “go back to the drawing board” and “sharpen our pencils.” What would be on that drawing board? What specific problems would those pencils be pressed into solving? He couldn’t say.

Asked by attendees at Candidates’ Night how the town and schools should cope with immediate issues created by the failure of the override, such as a projected $1.7 million school budget deficit, Mr. Manjikian offered no concrete ideas.

Asked how the town should respond if the planned cuts at Belmont High School in the wake of a “No” vote put the town afoul of the state mandatory minimum of 990 instructional hours, Mr. Manjikian had no thoughts.

Asked to explain how it was that our neighbor Lexington – which also gets 86% percent of its annual revenue from local property taxes – saw fit to pass $5.3 million in overrides to Belmont’s $0.00 in the last decade to support schools, roads and public safety, Manjikian brushed the question off, seemingly incurious about the goings on next door.

 
Paul Roberts a Town Meeting Member from Precinct 8 and the editor of Blogging Belmont.
Share This ArticleShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on LinkedInPrint this pageEmail this to someone

Comments

  1. Chris Lewis says

    “Asked to explain how it was that our neighbor Lexington – which also gets 86% percent of its annual revenue from local property taxes – saw fit to pass $5.3 million in overrides to Belmont’s $0.00 in the last decade to support schools, roads and public safety, Manjikian brushed the question off, seemingly incurious about the goings on next door.”

    Lexington has six thousand more residents than Belmont. The median age is four years older in Lexington. The median household income is $30,000 more than in Belmont.

    Herein lies the problem with the Yes voters. You want so badly to keep up with Lexington. Belmont will never be Lexington. Ever. Go move there and stop trying to push Belmont’s blue collar residents out.

    And here’s the answer to your general question: Stop mismanaging the town’s money.

Leave a Review or Comment

Your email address will not be published.