Belmont Voters Support Prop 2 1/2 Override to Decisive Victory [Update]

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.]

Breaking News: Override Passes, Williams Shocks Rojas for Selectman Seat


Belmont voters passed a $4.5 million Proposition 2 1/2 override that will secure long-term level funding and help with road repair.

The measure passed, 4,728 to 3,818, according to the Belmont Town Clerk’s office

In the race for Selectman, Andy Rojas lost a chance for a second three-year term as first-time challenger Jim Williams of Glenn Road defeated the incumbent by nearly 500 votes, 4,047 to 3,528.

Town Election 2015 in Belmont: Updated Through the Day

Photo: Tom Martin voting for the first time. 

7:45 p.m.: Precinct 8, the Winn Brook precinct: 1.200 ballots cast. 60 percent participation with many younger voters – 7 at booths when I was there – coming in.

7:30 p.m.: The heavy rains held off and people have been coming in steady to the eight polling stations in Belmont. Not many signs around town although Dawn MacKerron and Bill Trabilcy were in Cushing Square with a big “No” sign, receiving a long horn blast from a late-90s Cadillac with State tags.

2:20 p.m.: The election is just past mid-way and the numbers at the eight precincts indicate a good deal of interest in the contested Selectman’s race and the Prop 2 1/2 ballot question. 

Precinct wardens said the voters “have been really out there,” (Precinct 6), polling stations are “busy constantly,” (Precinct 3), activity is “brisk,” (Precinct 7) with voters coming in at a “steady pace.” (precincts 1 and 8).

So here are the raw numbers between 1:30 p.m. and 2 p.m.:

  • Precinct 1: 665
  • Precinct 2: 604
  • Precinct 3: 473
  • Precinct 4: 358
  • Precinct 5: 479
  • Precinct 6: 617
  • Precinct 7: 438
  • Precinct 8: 638

According to Town Clerk Ellen Cushman, the election could reach 40 percent participation rate or about 7,500 to 8,000 voters coming out. 

1:50 p.m.: It was rough going for Tom Martin as he tried to vote at Precinct 2 in Town Hall. The Belmont High senior first attempted to leave the polling station with both the ballot and the folder in his hands when Precinct Warden Henry Kazarian steered Martin to the official voting scanner. There he attempted to insert the manilsa folder into the slot. At that point, Kazarian instructed Martin on the proper process of voting. 

Despite flubbing the process a bit, everyone in the polling station gave a Martin a round of applause as it was the first time the 18-year-old ever voted. 

“It was good, it was interesting,” said Martin, who received a handshake from Kazarian on his way out. 

In the second-floor lobby, Martin said he wanted to cast his ballot because of the override.

“At Belmont High School, there has been a lot of talk about this [override] vote among the students,” said Martin, a co-captain of this year’s boys’ basketball team and player on Rugby. “We know the election is important for the future of the high school.” 

“And now I’m 18, I should have my voice heard,” he said. 

Noon: It was suppose to be raining by now but … nada. 

10 a.m.: So where are the sign holders? At the Beech Street Center, of course, where precincts 3 and 5 are located. And we found Selectman candidate Jim Williams with his campaign manager shaking hands and talking to Precinct 5 Town Meeting incumbent Frank Lombardo and former town employee  Austin ‘Butchie’ Bennett holding the fort for Andy Rojas.

“I have my coat so I’ll be here even if it rains,” said Butchie.


8:45 a.m.: A lonely figure at Precinct 2: Jim Gammell, a member of the leadership team for the Nos, poll watching. Will have to take a look around town to see if anyone else is out and about looking over lists of voters. Standing outside the Center’s parking lot, 

8:15 a.m.: Here are the first data dump of the day; the total number of absentee ballots received as of yesterday (there’s one more rush of ballots around 5 p.m.) and by precinct:

Total received/sent:


  • Precinct 1: 123
  • Precinct 2: 91
  • Precinct 3: 61
  • Precinct 4: 42
  • Precinct 5: 64
  • Precinct 6: 104
  • Precinct 7: 40
  • Precinct 8: 79

7:30 a.m.: Belmont’s Town Election 2015 gets underway under a gray overcast and cool conditions with some good voter participation at Precincts 1 (at the Belmont Public Library) and 8 (Winn Brook School) with a dozen voters waiting to enter Precinct 1 and more than 20 residents voting in the first 10 minutes at 8. At Town Hall, the level is described as “brisk.” 


One thing missing? Sign holders at the three precincts visited. Just one at 1 and 8, both with “Yes for Belmont” signs.

Town Election Day in Belmont: What You Need to Know to Vote Today

Today, Tuesday, April 7, Belmont voters will have the opportunity to cast ballots in the annual Town Election to elect members of Town Meeting, town-wide office and one ballot question.


Polling places are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Who can vote

Those who are legally registered to vote and are residents of Belmont.

You may be asked for ID

Did you fill out your town census form mailed earlier in the year? If you did not, then you are known as an “inactive” voter. Luckily, an “inactive” voter may still vote but first must provide adequate identification proving the voter’s identity and current place of residence. Usually a Massachusetts Driver’s License or State issued ID are sufficient.

Whom and what’s on the ballot

Find out here with the Belmont League of Women Voters’ election guide.

Transportation to the polls

The League of Women Voters of Belmont is offering rides to the polls from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Call 617-771-8500 to schedule transportation.

Questions about or during voting

Most questions – including who is eligible to vote in Belmont – that arise during voting can be answered by the precinct warden at the polling station. Other questions should be addressed to the Town Clerk’s Office at 617-993-2600.

Where do I vote?

Don’t know where to vote? Call the Town Clerk at 617-993-2600, or read/download the handy map included on this web page that includes a street directory.

Polling Places:

  • Precinct 1; Belmont Memorial Library, Assembly Room, 336 Concord Ave.
  • Precinct 2: Belmont Town Hall, Selectmen’s Meeting Room, 455 Concord Ave.
  • Precinct 3: Beech Street Center (Senior Center), 266 Beech St.
  • Precinct 4: Daniel Butler School, 90 White St.
  • Precinct 5: Beech Street Center (Senior Center), 266 Beech St.
  • Precinct 6: Belmont Fire Headquarters, 299 Trapelo Rd.
  • Precinct 7: Burbank School Gym, 266 School St.
  • Precinct 8: Winn Brook School Gym, 97 Waterhouse Rd (Enter at Cross St)

One-Woman Show: Financial Report Shows Allison Self-Financing ‘No’ Effort

Photo: Elizabeth Allison.

Move over, Koch brothers and Tom Steyer; you may think you have a big influence on politics, but you guys have nothing on Elizabeth Allison.

According to a campaign finance report filed March 30 with the Belmont Town Clerk, the Chair of the “Vote No on Ballot Question 1” committee has all but self-financed the effort to defeat the Proposition 2 1/2 override before voters on April 7.

The report which is filed eight days before the election with the Town Clerk shows Allison contributing $5,000 of the $5,640 given to the committee – about 91 cents of every dollar taken in – which saw a grand total of six residents donate to the “No” committee since mid-March.

Of the committee’s leadership, both Campaign Treasurer Raffi Manjikian or Robert Sarno failed to contribute to the fund (although Sarno’s wife, Judith, put in $100) while Jim Gammill pony upped $10.

In addition, Allison made two “in-kind” contributions totaling $1,642.62, raising her total tally to $6,642.62.

On the other side of the ballot question, the “Yes for Belmont” Committee shows a far greater depth in the number of contributors and total money raised. Nearly 80 residents gave less than $50 and 66 more than $50 for a total of $17,385 raised from more than 145 residents since Jan. 1. On top of an opening balance of approximately $6,500, the “Yes” side had a little more than $23,900 on hand.

Nearly all the money raised on both sides have gone to print firms to create yard signs and other promotional material.

Going into the critical final week of the race, the “No” committee was running on empty with less than $200 in reserves while the “Yes” had $13,268.

Over in the Selectman’s race, the incumbent Andy Rojas flexed his money-raising muscles by taking an impressive $21,000 from about 80 contributors, which added to a running balance in his war chest of $11,300, gave the current chair of the Board just about $32,300 to use in his race with challenger Jim Williams. Contributors included members of the Planning Board, former colleagues Ralph Jones and Liz Allison, the School Committee’s Lisa Fiore and former Boston Herald business writer Cosmo Macero.

Interestingly, while not contributing to the “No” committees coffers, Manjikian ($150) and Gammill ($200) ante upped for Rojas.

In the final eight day, Rojas was sitting on just over $19,000 for any last minute push.

First-time candidate Williams found about a quarter of the number of residents – and some out-of-towners – contributing as the Glenn Road resident raised $6,055 since mid-January. Unlike the “No” campaign, Williams has been able to spend very little over that time and can use his remaining $5,359 to impress voters in the final week of the campaign.

Heated Election Emotions Spurs Plea for Civility from Town Clerk, Top Cop

Photo: Ellen Cushman.

For the past few weeks, Belmont’s Town Clerk Ellen Cushman has been receiving an increasing number of calls, emails and personal visits from residents on the same topic, the Proposition 2 1/2 override on the Town Election ballot set for April 7.

But the residents were not seeking information about the Question 1. Rather, they showed Cushman examples of vitriol from neighbors or strangers on what side they took on Question 1: angry personal attacks in email and notes left on their property, political signs taken or destroyed, biting comments on social media.

“They’re upset that people are attacking their character for a political position,” Cushman told the Belmontonian Thursday afternoon, April 2.

“It’s been very bad tempered and personal,” she added.

After hearing from Belmont Police Chief Richard McLaughlin that his department has received similar messages, Cushman decided it was time to act by sending an extraordinary email to Town Meeting Members, elected officials, and town department heads to call for a return to civility in the election season.

Under the subject line, “The Community of Belmont – We All Share Responsibility,” (see the email below) Cushman spoke of “rising tide of negative emotion and malicious deeds and speech” against residents on the override question. Declaring she “abhor(s)” the actions taking place, Cushman is calling for those receiving the email to ask anyone they see participating in such acts to stop them and have the people return to “respectful discourse.”

The note is the first time the long-time Belmont resident can recall a town official requesting residents to remain civil during an election. Heated campaigning is not new to Belmont, infamous for the poison pen letters sent days before elections impugning the character of residents seeking town office.

(The Belmontonian has recently deleted Facebook and website comments for phrases and words that questioned poster’s characters.)

After speaking to McLaughlin, Cushman felt the underlying current of ugliness that “people were afraid to have conversations” about the election.

“It reached s a point where someone needed to notify residents of what’s happening,” said Cushman, hoping that residents realize they will still be neighbors on April 8.

While most of her focus is on the day of elections, Cushman said her mandate also is to make sure residents have the right to participate in the election process.

“Honestly, all I’m attempting to say is just be respectful,” she said.

The email from Belmont Town Clerk Ellen Cushman:
As the chief election official of the Town of Belmont, and in consultation with the Richard McLaughlin  our Chief of Police, I must call your attention to a rising tide of negative emotion and malicious deeds and speech regarding the Override, April 7t.   I have the utmost respect for the many volunteers who are active and willing to help educate our voters on this important issue, but I also realize that people cast their secret ballots for a myriad of reasons that I must also respect. Belmont needs the help of all of our elected and appointed officials to get back on track.  Some of the more outrageous examples of this problematic behavior:
  • Vicious emails have been sent to individual residents, stating that other residents “hate” the person who has announced an intention to vote a certain way
  • Political signs on private property, both Yes and No, have been removed
  • Handwritten notes containing aggressive, distressing language have been attached to political signs on private property
  • Facebook posts, online commentary and blogs that question the integrity of an individual volunteer rather than examine the person’s political stance
As a lifelong resident of Belmont, I’m not proud of those behaviors, I abhor them. They do not send a positive message to our children and neighbors; they send a message of personal attack, harassment and disdain.
Belmont is just over four square miles in area containing 25,000 residents. On April 8th, that won’t change. What I ask of you as one of Belmont’s elected and appointed officials is simple:
When you hear or see someone denigrating or criticizing our Belmont neighbors, stop them! Ask them instead to participate in a respectful discourse, not a campaign of hate but one of cooperation. Whatever the outcome on Tuesday night, Belmont will continue to rely on our many volunteers to keep our town strong and a wonderful place to live.  Let’s start displaying that respect right now.

Selectman Candidates’ Question of the Week: Making Belmont Business Friendly

Photo: Jim Williams

Every Wednesday leading up the Town Election on Tuesday, April 7, the Belmontonian will be asking a “Question of the Week” to the candidates running for a seat on the Board of Selectmen: incumbent Andy Rojas and Glenn Road resident Jim Williams.

This weekly feature will allow the candidates seeking a three-year term on the board to answer topical questions concerning Belmont and help demonstrate their ability to lead the town.

This week’s question:

The long-standing perception – going back generations – held by many business owners is that existing town bylaws and how they are interpreted by town departments creates a negative environment for retail and commercial ventures in Belmont. As Selectman, how would you make Belmont more “business friendly” for small retail and mid-size commercial companies?

Jim Williams

I am running for Selectman because I know that Belmont is a great town that needs more in the way of support for our residents and businesses.

Having worked with small and large companies my entire career, I am of the belief that local business helps round out the community – from contributions to tax revenue to the donations they make to our neighbors. The specific ways Belmont can support its local business community is outlined in the Vision 21 Business and Economic Development Committee’s recommendations from 2005.

We should immediately implement this town-appointed committee’s recommendations, as we should with other thoughtful recommendations that have come from similar committees. One specific example of what I would recommend is the finalization of the Community Path, because research shows that community paths in other towns improve business vitality. The same should be true in Belmont.

As I have repeated, initiatives that support our whole community are my first priority which is why you should consider me for Selectman.

Andy Rojas

Streamlining the various approvals and permit processes within Town departments is critical to attracting new businesses – large and small. Many new business owners are:

  1. confused by the many requirements for permits which vary by use and must be obtained from departments with jurisdiction over specific permits and approvals, including the Building and Health Departments; and
  2. overwhelmed by the length of time, number of hearings and professional fees needed to obtain approvals from the Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA).

Streamlined Communications & Checklists

The Planning Board and the ZBA are implementing streamlined applicant communications to reduce project review and approval time. My appointees to the Planning Board and ZBA have in-depth professional process experience that allows practical goals to be developed and requirements to be communicated clearly.

  • A well-defined checklist for each required regulatory process — Planning Board, Zoning Board of Appeals, Building Permit, Health Department, etc. — should be created so applicants can tailor approval efforts.

Electronic Processes

I have begun the work needed to produce efficient, transparent approvals and permitting processes. Many cities and towns have fully electronic building permit processes that let applicants track, monitor and pay for permit request processing without contacting departments or plan reviewers. Electronic transparency also allows department heads to monitor and evaluate reviewers to determine whether each application is being processed efficiently. While Belmont’s computer software permits this level of electronic building permit processing, further implementation is needed.

  • I will partner with the Community Development Department so a fully transparent electronic building permit application and review process can be implemented within the next year.
Andy Rojas - IMG_0799

Andy Rojas


Business — Specific Districts

The Cushing Square Overlay District (CSOD) should be updated to incorporate these efficiency measures. Revisions should be such that requirements are communicated to business applicants effectively and approval criteria are efficient and transparent.

New overlay district by-laws should be considered for Waverley Square and South Pleasant Street which will likely see development. They should be written to protect residents and, so they include clear goals and approvals processes; all business should know what to expect from day 1.

  • I am committed to leading this effort and to using my expertise and Belmont know-how to make it work.

Current Progress

Business district retail and commercial ventures such as Alchemy 925, Savinos, Il Casale, Spirited Gourmet, and Foodies (coming soon) have increased as issuing more restaurant and alcohol licenses has made Belmont more attractive to businesses. The Belmont Center and Trapelo Road Reconstruction Projects, Macy’s redevelopment and Cushing Village construction will provide even greater commercial and retail growth and improve the prospects for existing small and midsize retail and commercial firms.

Providing businesses with clear, easy-to-navigate building and permit processes will expand Belmont’s commercial tax base, something vital to our long term financial stability, help mitigate the impact of residential taxes that currently comprise approximately 94 percent of Belmont’s revenue and result in a business-friendly vibrant shopping and dining environment.

I respectfully request your vote for Selectman on Tuesday, April 7, 2015. Thank you.

Town Clerk: The FYI on the Annual Town Election

Photo: Election day in Belmont.

The annual Belmont Town Election will take place in one week, Tuesday, April 7, 2015, according to Town Clerk Ellen Cushman.

And below is information that will make the process of casting your ballot all the easier.

Voting Places

For voting purposes, Belmont is divided into eight voting precincts, located as follows: 

  • Precinct 1 – Belmont Memorial Library, Assembly Room, 336 Concord Ave.
  • Precinct 2 – Belmont Town Hall, Selectmen’s Room, 455 Concord Ave.
  • Precinct 3 – Beech Street Center, 266 Beech St.
  • Precinct 4 – Daniel Butler School, Gymnasium, 90 White St.
  • Precinct 5 – Beech Street Center, 266 Beech St.
  • Precinct 6 – Belmont Fire Headquarters, 299 Trapelo Rd.
  • Precinct 7 – Burbank School, Gymnasium, 266 School St.
  • Precinct 8 – Winn Brook School, Gymnasium, 97 Waterhouse Rd. (Enter from Cross Street)

Please adhere to the posted parking restrictions and use caution to ensure safety of pedestrians around the voting precincts.

Election Day Campaigning

The Town Clerk and the Board of Registrars of Voters reminds all residents that no campaign signs, stickers, buttons or materials may be displayed within 150 feet of each polling place. This prohibition, per Massachusetts General Laws, Ch. 54, §65, even extends to a candidate whose name is on the ballot, when the candidate is not actively voting.  The maps that display the 150 foot radius are posted on the Town Clerk’s website under Campaigning: Running for Elected Office and Town Meeting.

Are You Registered to Vote in Belmont and Eligible to Vote April 7? 

If you are wondering if you are a registered voter and/or your voting precinct, please go to the

Town Clerk’s webpage

or phone the Town Clerk’s office at 617-993-2600. 

The deadline to register to vote and make changes to voter registration such as address was March 18 at 8 p.m. Any forms received after that date or not postmarked by that date will be process AFTER the April 7 election.

Election Results – How Do I Find Out the Results?

Election results for each precinct are announced by the Warden of each precinct after the close of the polls. The Unofficial Townwide Results will be announced at Town Hall and posted on the home page of the Town website as soon as they are available Tuesday evening or phone the  Town Clerk’s office at 617-993-2600 on Wednesday morning.  Campaign representatives are welcome to wait at Town Hall for the printed results.

‘Yes’, ‘No’ Sides Push Their Positions – Financial and Political – at Candidates’ Night

Photo: Adam Dash (left) and Raffi Manjikian at the Candidates’ Night.

It’s alway smart to have a prop on hand to make your point.

To demonstrate the necessity of the $4.5 million override to be decided by Belmont voters at Town Election on April 7, Yes for Belmont’s Adam Dash brought a threadbare textbook without its cover and a slab of asphalt to the lectern at Candidates’ Night on Thursday, March 26.

“Let’s be clear what voting no means,” said Dash, holding up “an actual level service quality text book” along with a piece from “my street,” before more than 100 residents attending the Belmont League of Women Voters’ sponsored event at the Chenery Middle School.

“We will see more and more of this,” said Dash, a member of the Warrant Committee for the past six years.

“We are not going to fix his by nibbling around the edges. I’m sorry, but this will cost money, it just does,” Dash told the audience, which were favorable deposed to his argument as noted by dozens who stood in a steady rain holding orange “Yes for Belmont” signs.

Yet Raffi Manjikian, the treasurer of the resident’s committee opposing the override, spurning the request for additional taxes to pay for skyrocketing enrollment and added expenses is not an anti-school vote, pointing out he has four children attending Belmont schools.

Rather, a no vote would be a rejection of “bad assumptions” – such as being “too conservative” in estimates of revenue and expenses – made in a year-long analysis of town finances by the Financial Task Force, which recommended “this mega override.”

“We voters have been given an unfair choice of a $4.5 million override. It’s not all or nothing; there are alternatives and the time to get the job done,” he said in his opening statement.

A “no” vote would give “an unambiguous message to our leadership to get back to the table, sharpen their pencils and manage our public finances wisely,” said Manjikian.

Yet to Dash and the “yes” supporters, a “no” vote transmits “is a bad sign to the people and a bad sign to the kids that we are not willing to do step one” for them.

The night of answering questions – it was hardly a debate in the truest sense – allowed each side to push their positions to residents. While the Yes campaign has been active in Belmont for nearly a month with rallies, meetings, and mailings, Thursday’s meeting was the “nos” first opportunity to explain its argument disputing claims that $4.5 million is the right amount.

It didn’t take long for the most telling comment to be uttered, coming at the very start during Manjikian’s highlighted the main reasons the “No” committee opposes the ballot question, suggesting the “No” committee’s motivation is as much political and procedural as it is fiscal.

“This year the town leadership choose to leap frog over the usual budget process calling for an override before we deliberated on the budget,” said Manjikian, referring to the Warrant Committee’s oversight mission. Several members of the “No” group are current or former members of the committee which serves as the Town Meeting’s financial watchdog.

In fact, the “No” Committee is not opposed to the concept of an override; it would seek to work towards a “right sized” measure that would meet department and schools needs, but only after a “budget committee,” whose work would come under Warrant Committee scrutiny, narrowed the $1.7 million funding gap facing the schools in the 2016 fiscal year.

During the question and answer portion, when residents addressed the representatives, Dash defended the override as the only sensible way of closing a deficit that could see more than 22 full-time equivalent positions cut from the schools, the ending of advanced art courses, the increase in class sizes and providing the bare minimum of classes to 11th and 12th grade students.

Pointing to neighboring towns such as Lexington, Concord and Acton, which has passed numerous overrides since Belmont’s last in 2002, Dash said, “they understand that sometimes things cost more … than 2 1/2 percent a year.”
Manjikian countered “money doesn’t solve the problems,” saying Belmont’s “achievement oriented” parents, students and teachers will continue to make it a successful system.

Rather than revenue, cutting expenses is required, specifically educators pay which is the “biggest driver of the school system,” he said.

When asked by a resident to name the specific cuts to the schools, Dash said the reductions have been clearly spelled out by Belmont School Superintendent John Phelan from major cuts to staff, extra free time and two of three classrooms above recommended enrollment numbers.
“It’s getting ridicules,” said Dash. “If we vote yes, you can have everything that you have now … or you can vote no and all these cuts are going to happen,” said Dash.

Manjikian said if the “no” vote prevails, “it would be in the best interest of the community to bring all the leaders back to the table much like we do in the budget process to look where additional revenue and addition expenses that get realigned and maintain the needs of the schools.”

While Manjikian discussed creating a multi-year plan to finance capital projects such as a new High School as well as annual educational needs, Dash said $4.5 million override is seen by the Financial Task Force and supporters as a long-range financing measure for the schools and the community.

In their closing remarks, Manjikian said a no vote would allow the town to explore “alternatives” to an override that will double from an average $854 per household in a decade.

Dash said Belmont has said “no” for far too long on infrastructure and now the schools.

“The great English philosopher John Lennon once said, ‘Yes is the Answer.'” said Dash.

Selectman Candidates’ Question of the Week: A Vision for Future Development in Belmont

Photo: Andy Rojas.

Every Wednesday leading up the Town Election on Tuesday, April 7, the Belmontonian will be asking a “Question of the Week” to the candidates running for a seat on the Board of Selectmen: incumbent Andy Rojas and Glenn Road resident Jim Williams.

This weekly feature will allow the candidates seeking a three-year term on the board to answer topical questions concerning Belmont and help demonstrate their ability to lead the town.

This week’s question: There is a critical need in Belmont to promote new growth and increase the tax base. What is your vision for future development in Belmont? Where do you think those opportunities exist within the town?

Andy Rojas

Belmont’s development future must be guided by the needs of our residents, the expansion of our commercial tax base and the enhancement of Belmont’s physical character. My entire adult life has been spent managing development so it fits the neighborhood and environmental context contained in each proposal. Applying my professional experience to town service has demonstrated my commitment to sensitive development that respects and enhances Belmont.

Belmont’s budget struggles often end up imposing a financial burden on the primary revenue generators — residential taxpayers. Well planned economic development in our business districts can change that; commercial taxpayers typically use fewer town services and therefore, have fewer negative impacts on town expenditures.

New development potential exists in Cushing Square, Waverley Square, Belmont Center, South Pleasant Street and Brighton Street among other key business areas. Transitional commercial areas such as Benton Square, Palfrey Square and other small neighborhood commercial areas also have potential for suitable contextual development.

Planning and design must provide necessary commercial services while limiting and mitigating traffic, mass and density impacts. Residents and neighborhoods must be protected with appropriate controls including overlay districts, zoning laws and demolition delay among others.

  • I have worked on revitalizing Belmont’s business districts — large and small — for the past decade and can combine my professional expertise with the Belmont background and experience needed to make these projects successful.

Fitting development to Belmont’s needs can be done most effectively by creating thoughtful overlay districts in key areas. My experience with Belmont’s overlay districts, zoning laws and demolition moratoriums will let me move Belmont forward.

The Cushing Square Overlay District (CSOD) should be updated in light of the Cushing Village developers’ interpretation of the by-law; tighter controls on mass, height and density are needed. CSOD allows for additional development; I will work with the Planning Board and the neighborhood to update and clarify the by-law’s requirements so future development adheres to better targeted, community-based standards.

New overlay district by-laws should be considered for Waverley Square and South Pleasant Street, which will likely see increased development pressure. Partnering with surrounding neighborhoods is critical to their success and effectiveness as important, protective planning tools. I am committed to leading this effort and to using my expertise and Belmont know-how to make them work.

Business district revitalization has begun with restaurants and stores such as Savinos, Il Casale, Spirited Gourmet, Vintages, Craft Beer Store and El Centro; they have opened because Belmont has issued more restaurant and alcohol licenses. The Belmont Center Reconstruction Project, Trapelo Road Reconstruction Project, Macy’s building redevelopment and the construction of Cushing Village will provide even greater commercial growth that will help alleviate the residential taxpayer burden.

Expanding Belmont’s commercial tax base is vital to the long term financial stability of the town, will help mitigate the impact of residential taxes that currently comprise approximately 94 percent of Belmont’s revenue, and will provide the vibrant shopping and dining environment residents deserve.

I respectfully request your vote for Selectman on Tuesday, April 7, 2015. Thank you.

Jim Williams

Belmont is as close to fully developed in terms of available land as any town I know. We have an interesting conundrum here in that we aim to preserve a small-town, community feel, while continuing to advance the growing needs of our community.  

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I truly believe that development opportunities reside in Belmont’s commercial centers – Cushing and Waverly Squares, Belmont Center, and along Belmont Street – in order to capitalize on increased revenue (from taxes). Encouraging mixed-use development such as the Cushing Square development plan would promote a business- and commuter-friendly eco-system, while increasing our revenue. Because trains and buses serve the centers, there would be an inherent increase in foot traffic desirable to our local businesses.

Thriving commercial centers promote a sense of community and energy, while increasing engagement in the town.  On the flip side is the fact that our public services are overwhelmed and underfunded, which need to be addressed before expanding our tax base for the sake of revenue while increasing costs to serve the needs of our newest residents.  This balance is best achieved by a fully-functional town management that prioritizes fiscal responsibility and servicing our community and infrastructure. I consider development part of a larger solution within the plan I have offered our beloved Belmont.