Town Meeting Warrant Briefing Set For Thursday, April 15 at 7 p.m.

Photo: Poster for the April 15 Warrant Briefing

The Warrant Committee and Belmont League of Women Voters will co-sponsor a Warrant Briefing for Town Meeting Segment A to introduce Town Meeting Members to the articles in the warrant for the first section of the annual 2021 Town Meeting on Thursday, April 15 at 7 p.m.  

For new Town Meeting Members, the warrant is the legal notice of the Town Meeting, showing the agenda that will be discussed and voted by the Town Meeting assembly beginning Monday, May 3. 

The Warrant Briefing is not an open debate or detailed discussion, nor is it a replacement for the full debate/airing that must take place at Town Meeting. It’s an opportunity for the Warrant Committee Chair Laurie Slap to briefly explain the goal of the article and Town Meeting Members can ask a question to help everyone better understand the intention of the sponsor of the article in putting it on the warrant. It’s a very valuable meeting to attend, this year exclusively by Zoom.

The Zoom viewing options are:

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/86589919600 Zoom meeting ID: 865 8991 9600

Live broadcast: Belmont Ch 8 (Comcast); Ch 28 (Verizon) Livestream or on-demand: belmontmedia.org/watch/govtv

The warrant and all associated documents will be emailed to Town Meeting Members either Tuesday or Wednesday. If you are newly elected and have not provided a contact sheet with your current email for Town Meeting please do so right away so you don’t miss the mailings.

Three Public Meetings To Discuss Civil Service, McLean Rezoning, Special Town Meeting Articles

Photo: Special Town Meeting Public Meetings

The Select Board has authorized at its meeting on Monday, Aug. 31 the remote Special Town Meeting for up to three nights this month:

  • Monday, Sept. 21
  • Wednesday, Sept. 23
  • Wednesday, Sept. 30

Town Moderator Mike Widmer has asked that all Town Meeting Members make time to participate in the topical meetings or watch the recordings before Town Meeting begins so that all can start on the same baseline of information.  

  • Tuesday, Sept. 8: McLean Zoning By-law,  hosted by the Planning Board Chair Steve Pinkerton
  • Wednesday, Sept. 9: Removal of Police and Fire personnel from Civil Service, hosted by the Town Administrator Patrice Garvin and Select Board Chair Roy Epstein
  • Thursday, Sept. 10: League of Women Voters Warrant Briefing hosted by Laurie Slap, Chair of Warrant Committee

Below is additional information including meeting access information. 

Amend Zoning Bylaw: McLean District Zone 3 Overlay

The McLean Zone 3 Overlay zoning article relates to a residential housing development proposed for in the area of McLean Hospital. Details on the proposed project can be found here

https://www.belmont-ma.gov/planning-board/pages/proposed-mclean-zone-3-overlay-district

The article amends zoning originally adopted in 1999 for a project that was never built. After much negotiation between the town and the current developer, the proposed zoning amendment allows 40 age-restricted (55 years of age or older) townhouses and 110 apartments (57 age-restricted apartments and 53 non-age restricted apartments). The townhouses will be 2.5 stories with one to four units per building. 15 percent of the townhouses (six units) will be set aside for affordable housing. The apartments will be contained in two buildings with a garage and four residential floors above. The apartment layouts include studios, one-, two-, and three-bedroom units. 25 percent of the apartments (28 apartments) will be set aside for affordable housing. Permitting for this development will be through the Planning Board under Design and Site Plan Review. 

Webinar ID: 820 1129 4827

Please click the link below to join the webinar:
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/82011294827

To join by telephone, 
Call: 1 (929) 205 6099 
When prompted, enter:  820 1129 4827 # 
When prompted, enter # 
To ask a question or raise your hand, enter *9 on your phone. 

If you are just interested in following along, watch on Belmont Media Center.
Channel 8 on Comcast
Channels 28 or 2130 on Verizon
Watch online at > belmontmedia.org/watch/govtv

Removal from Civil Service: Police and Fire

This article seeks the approval of Town Meeting to remove all uniformed Police and Fire Department personnel from the provisions of the Civil Service laws, which removal would become part of a negotiated agreement between the Town of Belmont and the Belmont Fire Fighters Local 1637, Belmont Patrolmen’s Association and Belmont’s Police Superiors Officers Associations.  Civil Service was adopted in Belmont for Police and Fire in 1915, before the existence of collective bargaining agreements.  The Select Board believes the interests of the town employees and the Town would be better served in the modern era by withdrawing from Civil Service.

Webinar ID:  815 5872 3892

Please click the link below to join the webinar:
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81558723892

To join by telephone, 
Call:  1 (929) 205 6099 
When prompted, enter:  815 5872 3892 # 
When prompted, enter # 
To ask a question or raise your hand, enter *9 on your phone. 

If you are just interested in following along, watch on Belmont Media Center.
Channel 8 on Comcast
Channels 28 or 2130 on Verizon
Watch online at > belmontmedia.org/watch/govtv

League of Women Voters Warrant Briefing

This will review all other Warrant Articles that will be sent to Town Meeting Members once the Warrant has been finalized. 

Webinar ID: 839 3666 6891

Please click the link below to join the webinar:
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/83936666891

To join by telephone, 
Call:  1 (929) 205 6099 
When prompted, enter:  839 3666 6891 # 
When prompted, enter # 
To ask a question or raise your hand, enter *9 on your phone. 

If you are just interested in following along, watch on Belmont Media Center.
Channel 8 on Comcast
Channels 28 or 2130 on Verizon
Watch online at > belmontmedia.org/watch/govtv

Warrant Briefing Wednesday; Know What’s Coming At Town Meeting

Photo: The warrant briefing provides a heads up for Town Meeting members on articles and amendments.

Town Meeting members and the public are invited on Wednesday, June 10 at 7 p.m. to attend the 2020 ‘Zoom’ Warrant Briefing for next week’s annual Town Meeting.

The meeting is cosponsored by the town’s Warrant Committee and the Belmont League of Women Voters.

Residents and members will have the opportunity to ask questions of town officials and department heads about the articles and amendments prior to the annual legislative gathering on Tuesday, June 16.

Laurie Slap, chair of the Warrant Committee, will preside.

To join the Zoom Meeting, head to:

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89869234568

Meeting ID: 898 6923 4568

One tap mobile +19292056099, 89869234568# US (New York)

Meeting ID: 898 6923 4568

Q&A: Warrant Meeting On Articles Before Special Town Meeting Tuesday, Oct. 30

Photo: Poster for the event 

The public and Town Meeting members are invited to attend a Warrant Briefing tonight, Tuesday, Oct. 30, at 7:30 p.m. at the Beech Street Center, 266 Beech St.

Residents and voters will have the opportunity to ask questions about the Warrant Articles prior to Special Town Meeting scheduled to begin on Tuesday, Nov 13.

The articles that will be before the “Special” will include:

  • Appropriation of debt to build the Belmont High School construction project.
  • Amendment to the zoning bylaw to create an overlay district along South Pleasant Street.
  • Amendment to the zoning bylaw to create an adult use marijuana overlay district.
  • A Community Preservation Committee off cycle request for $400,000 for the design of an Alexander Avenue underpass.
  • A citizen petition to extend the temporary moratorium on marijuana establishment for an additional six months til June 30, 2019.
  • Reduction of the senior property tax deferral interest rate from eight percent to four-and-a half percent.

Town officials and department heads will be present to provide information. Roy Epstein, chair of the Warrant Committee, will preside. Tonight’s meeting is cosponsored by the Warrant Committee and the Belmont League of Women Voters Education Fund.

As Town Meeting Ponders Bolting Minuteman, Belmont Prepares ‘Pathway’ for Voc Students

Photo: Roy Epstein, chair of the Belmont Warrant Committee

As the Belmont Town Meeting prepares to vote on the future of the town’s four decades partnership with the Minuteman Regional School District – the home of Minuteman Vocational Tech High School – the educator in charge of Belmont’s own district is already preparing a set of “pathways” to provide students seeking a vocational education “access to quality” classes if two-thirds of Town Meeting ultimately votes no. 

While many Town Meeting members and residents who attended this Monday’s warrant briefing – co-sponsored by the Warrant Committee and the Belmont League of Women Voter at the Chenery Middle School – were seeking more information on the financial pros and cons of remaining or leaving the district, Belmont’s School Superintendent John Phelan has begun cobbling together plans to use the three-year “window of time” where Belmont students are guaranteed a place at Minuteman to “research, review and analyze” options so by the second year in 2018, the town can prepare for the cost and logistics of setting the plans in motion.

According to Phelan, the “pathways” provide the town steps to satisfy the state requirement, known as Chapter 74, of providing approved vocational technical education. 

The first, and most straightforward, is the “Minuteman” pathway in which Belmont continues to send students to the Lexington-based school as pupils from non-member communities.

During the three years leading up to the opening of the new Minuteman building in 2020, Belmont would “closely monitor” the number of non-member students and any changes in state law so that it can ensure students aren’t squeezed out of the school if it reaches capacity.

The second avenue is the “Alternative” path, where Belmont would reach out to five nearby school districts – Waltham, Newton (Newton North), Cambridge, Medford, and Somerville – that proved state-approved vocational classes to inquire whether they are willing to take in Belmont students. 

Phelan told the meeting Monday the districts have been contacted and while only Cambridge and Medford “are in the business of taking in students,” the other three said they are open to talking about a partnership with Belmont.

Phelan said he would hold talks with the towns and present the School Committee with a “program of studies” by May 2017. A task force would be created to analyze the program options and how they relate to the classes Minuteman provide. 

By March 2018, more than two years before the new Minuteman school is scheduled to open, Belmont’s School Committee would meet with the Board of Selectmen to decide which of the pathways would address the needs of 8th graders who would option to a vocational program. 

Final agreements would be signed between Belmont and the nearby schools by the 2018/2019 school year; guidance staff would prepare students for a change and final implementation of the alternative pathway would take place in September 2020.

When asked his “central thought” of staying with Minuteman as part of the two pathways, Phelan said most people would rather be part of a regional school.

“We have a long relationship” with Minuteman, said Phelan. But since past votes – including two this year – have shown a strong preference in town to leave the district, “it’s our job” to find vocational classes and put together a “range of offerings … and provide a “quality menu” for students if the vote to leave the district is approved.

But several Town Meeting members agreed with Edward Bouquillon, Minuteman’s superintendent, who questioned whether just providing classes in a relative subject is the equivalent of Minuteman’s comprehensive educational approach.

“Minuteman and other schools are different,” said Bouquillon, saying that students in Lexington spend 630 hours exploring careers by spending time in all subjects while in Somerville the time is limited to 165 hours. And while Medford and Cambridge students are taught by licensed professionals for a bit over 1,000 hours, Minuteman students are instructed for 2,205 hours.

“There are distinct differences that should be considered before the vote rather than after,” he said.

For the bulk of the meeting, newly-appointed Warrant Committee Chair Roy Epstein walked the audience of Town Meeting members through the article’s highlights noting it will take a 2/3 majority vote of Town Meeting to approve the withdrawal.

A “yes” vote will change the status of the town to a non-member community which will relieve Belmont of the debt building a new $145 million building set to open in September 2020. With state subsidies, the debt to member towns will be $100 million. The new facility will have room for 628 students.

Epstein said even if the town votes to leave the district, Belmont can still send new students to Minuteman until the school opens, after which Belmont pupils can attend if there is space.

Turning to finances, the state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education this summer allowed Minuteman to assess a capital charge of $9,500 per student to member town and non-member communities such as Belmont which does not have any vocational training in the district.

But Epstein said it remains uncertain if Minuteman will implement the add-on cost since it retains the ability to “make deals” to attract and retain students by reducing the assessment.

“That’s just conjecture but take it for what it’s worth,” said Epstein.

Epstein crunched the numbers on the cost of staying or leaving. In the next three years after the vote, a “yes” to remain would result in the town an additional $232,000 in debt service if the current level of students remains constant while withdrawing would keep charges at their current amounts. 

Once the school opens, the yearly cost – tuition, capital charge, transportation and Special Education – per Belmont student reaches approximately $33,000. Multiply that by 29 students now enrolled and Belmont’s tab will be $957,000. 

Using Epstein’s calculations, by remaining in the district, Belmont would be obligated to pay the remaining operating and capital expenses after payments by non-members. Epstein said the cost per student annually would be in a range of $42,000 to nearly $50,000. Those charges would add between $311,000 to $436,000 to the town’s bottom line, requiring the town to seek an override or find a source of funds in the budget to pay for it, said Selectman Mark Paolillio to those in attendance. 

Epstein said after analyzing data and enrollment projections from the Minuteman administration and those advocating for withdrawal, the Warrant Committee believes there will be a significant cost gap between a student coming from member and non-member towns, even if the Minuteman school is fully enrolled. 

While the Minuteman administration is confident it can boost enrollment from the current 576 to 628 – most newly built schools experience a rush of students and vocational education is increasing in popularity – the new high school will need to attract a much greater percentage of higher paying member town students than it does today, a number Epstein isn’t quite ready to accept.

After the meeting, the Warrant Committee voted 11 to 2 for leaving the district.

Town Meeting Preview: Warrant Briefing Thursday Night at the Beech

Photo: The warrant briefing from October 2014.

Think of today’s Warrant Briefing as a movie trailer; attending will give the public the “coming attractions” of Belmont’s annual Town Meeting in three weeks time.

Tonight, Thursday, April 14 at 7 p.m., the Belmont League of Women Voters and the Warrant Committee is co-sponsoring this briefing at the Beech Street Center, 266 Beech St.

This is an opportunity for Town Meeting member and the general public to ask questions of town officials and department heads each of the warrant articles prior to the annual Town Meeting beginning on May 2. 

Michael Libenson, Warrant Committee chair, will preside.