Photo: Residents who came to the Belmont Hill School to discuss passing the Prop. 2 1/2 override in April.
The snowfall that arrived Sunday afternoon, March 1, made driving difficult, particularly attempting to putter up the Prospect Street’s steep incline.
But the weather and the climb did not deter approximately 120 residents who braved the conditions to drive to the Belmont Hill School’s Jordan Athletic Center to listen to the leaders of a newly-formed community group.
Its message: Pass the override.
Yes for Belmont is seeking to marshal support for the passage of a $4.5 million Proposition 2 1/2 override – recommended by the Financial Task Force and placed on the April 7 Town Election ballot by the Board of Selectmen – in an effort to forestall potentially deep cuts in next year’s budget including laying off 22 full-time positions in the school district.
Not a rally nor a policy debate, the half-hour meeting had the feel of a “meet and greet” where supporters could get a chance to get to know the Yes for Belmont leadership team and ask questions about .
Sign-up sheets and forms on what residents are willing to do (holding signs, being part of an outreach team) where on tables for attendees while orange yard signs – that can be found on snow drifts around Belmont – were ready to be taken home.
For Sara Masucci, a seasoned political campaigner and co-chair of Yes for Belmont, the need for an operational override – which permits the town to exceed the 2 1/2 percent annual limit on the increase in taxes a municipality is permitted – is real; deteriorating roads, exploding enrollment in schools with additional costs for special education and English learners has overwhelmed current efforts to pay for it.
“We’re all here because this is a very big deal and we are deeply concerned and we want to make sure that we do what we need to do to make the quality of this town stay at the level that it should be,” said Masucci.
Yet the plan is not to push too hard, be too passionate when discussing the need for additional tax revenue as those residents less supportive of the override “to claim that we are being ‘too emotional’, that we are overblowing the issue, that we are creating a panic,” said Masucci.
Masucci said there are several avenues for residents to take to support the effort; personal networking with friends and colleagues, writing letters of support to media outlets and getting out the vote.
“That’s when will be counting on you, the people, to get out there and make those connections and make that final push to make sure that person you know who supports us but doesn’t really vote gets out there on Tuesday,” Masucci said.
Lars Kellogg-Stedman came to the meeting because of his concern for the future of education in Belmont.
“I have two kids at the Burbank [Elementary] and they’ve really been enjoying their time here and seeing the depth of cuts that are possible if the funding doesn’t come through makes me sad for them because they will be missing a lot of opportunities,” he said.
“I’m going to be writing letters and standing on street corners with signs while talking with all the parents that I know,” he said.
“This is important to our family,” Kellogg-Stedman said.