325WVN #285: $66.6 million budget
- Feb 10, 2009Dear Wayland Voter,
As Massachusetts and the nation face the worst economic crisis in more than 70 years, the preliminary Wayland budget proposed for the fiscal year beginning on July 1 is $66.6 million, up 5 percent from current spending.
Also in this newsletter:
-- The selectmen endorse Advanced Life Support service.
-- The Conservation Commission and affordable housing.
FINCOM PRESENTS BUDGET
On Feb. 2 the Finance Committee presented its preliminary Fiscal 2010 budget, having capped its series of meetings with town departments with discussions the previous week with the School Committee, which is responsible for over 70 percent of
the town spending. The total proposed budget is $66.6 million, which is about 5 percent over the Fiscal 2009 budget.
The bulk of the increases stem from increased salary and benefit costs under the new union contracts with teachers and other town employees.
Revenues will rise considerably less than expenditures, given the constraints of Prop. 2-1/2 and assuming no override, leaving a $1.4 million shortfall. However, last year's override ($1.9 million) was apparently generous enough to allow $1.1 million
of this year's shortfall to be taken from free cash and still leave over $6 million in free cash, or nearly 10 percent of the budget.
Bond rating agencies recommend between 5 and 10 percent free cash to retain the highest bond ratings. Another $300,000 will be taken from ambulance receipts.
Members of the FinCom mentioned next year as "an override year". They have been following a pattern of recommending overrides every two years.
The budget had to account for reduced state aid, which dropped only last month with Gov. Patrick's announcement of reduced local aid statewide because of declines in state revenues. It is now under 8 percent of expected total town revenues,
compared to about 10 percent in 2003. Many older cities and towns get over 50 percent of their funding from the state and are far more affected by state aid declines.
Healthcare and pension costs now account for about 16 percent of Wayland's budget.
The FinCom has pointed to several initiatives to reduce costs and enhance revenues, such as school consolidation and efforts to increase the commercial tax base. The school department has detailed estimated savings in excess of $500,000 from the
elementary school reconfiguration (http://www.waylandschoolcommittee.org/details/fy09-es-reconfiguration-savings.htm) after some parents questioned the financial benefits of the move.
Though the Town Center project has been touted as a major boost in tax revenue, construction still hasn't begun and the developers claim only a Stop & Shop market as a future tenant. If fully built out to 370,000 square feet, which isn't likely to
happen in the immediate future, Town Center would generate new tax revenue estimated by a town consultant at three quarters of one percent of next year's budget. No new tax revenue from the project appears in the proposed budget.
Potential savings from regionalization have now been added to the FinCom's list of possible ways to mitigate budget increases.
The Fincom is also recommending $3.53 million in capital expenditures, including $900,000 for a new High School Feasibility Study, $550,000 for school technology, $410,000 for town building repairs, and $300,000 for two more modular pre-fab
classrooms at the high school. The School Committee stated that $480,000 of the $900,000 is expected to be reimbursed by the state.
However, the Massachusetts School Building Authority has recently only agreed to a 900-student high school population projection, as opposed to the 1,000 students on which the $900,000 is based, and this number was agreed to by the School
Committee on Feb. 9, so the $900,000 is likely to be revised downward.
The FinCom says the capital spending won't affect taxes because an equivalent amount of debt is being paid off.
The School Committee believes that the new modulars are needed to carry it through until the completion of a new high school project in four or five years, even though the school population has been steadily dropping.
The FinCom approved only $550,000 for technology out of an original $750,000 request, which in turn had been cut down by the superintendent from the $1 million recommended by the Technology Task Force.
The School Committee has touted the educational quality advantages of beefed up technology, but has refused to consider possible productivity improvements from the use of technology which could justify increased investment in this area.
The FinCom also approved a capital request for $240,000 for ambulance and advanced life support (ALS) equipment. The ALS proposal was approved by the selectmen at the Feb. 9 meeting.
Also approved: $200,000 for a "full list and measure" (complete revaluation of the town) called for by a petitioners' resolution in the April Town Meeting.
One public comment at the FinCom hearing came from a member of the Board of Road Commissioners, who said her board had never approved a request for a one-ton dump truck included in the budget. Other comments referenced the high tax
rate, local job losses, and the recent decline in Wayland housing prices. One citizen told of a house put on the market for $650,000 which, a year and a half later, is still on the market with the asking price reduced to $405,000.
"The tax base of this town may be much lower than most of us estimate", he said.
FinCom members Richard Stack and Bob Lentz protested that tax rates don't matter, and said Wayland typical tax bills are comparable to other peer towns. "We fall in the middle", said Lentz. The "peer towns" the FinCom uses for comparison generally
comprise the wealthiest towns in the state, including Wellesley, Weston, Dover, and Sherborn.
-- Tom Sciacca
SELECTMEN APPROVE ALS
The Board of Selectmen met yet another time with the special committee that passionately advocated a relatively inexpensive way to improve life-saving emergency care in Wayland.
After asking further questions on Feb. 9, the Board voted unanimous approval, and a long process ended with smiles, congratulations and handshakes. The system will be evaluated after a year.
Selectman Bill Whitney had expressed concern over long-term fiscal impacts and complained that the Finance Committee provided for Advanced Life Support in its preliminary Fiscal 2010 budget even though the selectmen hadn't approved it. But
this week he said he was won over partly by the news that MetroWest Medical Center, with hospitals in Natick and Framingham, had offered financial help.
MetroWest wasn't solicited for a contribution and wouldn't receive special consideration, Fire Chief Robert Loomer said. Its Framingham hospital is considered the best location within many miles for emergency cardiac angioplasty.
Loomer pointed out that Wayland is often unable to meet the ALS standard set two decades ago. Some 86 percent of emergency calls are to locations south of Route 20, where Wayland must depend for ALS on a commercial ambulance service, AMR,
which often isn't available.
Under the plan, part-time paramedics will be available during the eight busiest hours of the day, seven days a week. The first year of the plan is estimated to cost about $30,000 for equipment and about $65,000 in net operating expenses.
Wayland fire crews are trained in basic care but can't administer prescription drugs or perform many critical pre-hospital procedures.
Emergency ambulance calls by Wayland fire crews raise considerable revenue ($345,000 last year) to the town's general treasury. The net cost of paramedic service will come from those revenues. The Finance Committee's budget for the fiscal year
beginning July 1 will use $300,000 in ambulance receipts to help balance the budget.
"This proposal doesn't lock us in," Chief Loomer said. The service, which Sudbury, Weston and Lincoln say they'll use when indicated, could expand and become self-supporting, even profitable, he says.
A regional solution could replace the system some day, but Loomer says he doesn't expect that to happen soon.
-- Michael Short
"ASK THE REP" CABLECAST
Wednesday Feb. 11, 7-7:30 p.m., Comcast Channel 9 and Verizon Channel 37. State Rep. Tom Conroy (D-Wayland) will take questions live at 508-358-3472. Or email rep.thomasconroy@....
Friday Feb. 13, 5-5:30 p.m., Wayland Library Raytheon Room. Conroy meets with constituents. No appointment necessary.
THE FUTURE OF AFFORDABLE HOUSING
Proposed Wayland 40B affordable housing projects dominated the Feb. 5 meeting of the Conservation Commission.
The all-rental 52-unit Commonwealth Residences proposed at the former Kathryn Barton Nursing Home site on Route 30 was reviewed; the 48-unit age-restricted tree-cutting Wayland Commons project on Route 27 had its conservation permits
extended and the Town Center project (which while not technically a 40B project includes 20 or 25 affordable home-ownership units) had its special meeting schedule expanded.
STATE 40B LAW
The state 40B law allows developers to sidestep local zoning requirements if at least 25 percent of the units constructed meet affordability standards and if the town does not have 10 percent of its housing stock already affordable.
In addition, if the town adds in one year new affordable units comprising 0.5 percent of its stock, the town can refuse new 40B projects for one year. All units in a 40B rental project are considered in the 0.5 percent count even if only some of
them are affordable.
Wayland has about 150 affordable living units out of a housing stock of about 4,700. To get to 10 percent, more than 300 more affordable units need to be constructed.
To be able to refuse units for one year, 24 affordable units need to be added to the total count in one year. Units can be counted when a building permit is issued, an occupancy permit is issued, a Comprehensive Permit is issued or when occupied
by a family, whichever comes first.
Since the 52-unit Commonwealth Residences at the Kathryn Barton site is a rental project, when this condition is satisfied the town will be able to refuse 40B projects for two years.
The 40B law does not allow developers to sidestep laws regarding health, safety or conservation. Thus applicants typically meet with fire and police departments, the board of health and the conservation commission.
COMMONWEALTH RESIDENCES PROJECT
The features relevant to conservation in the proposed project at 371-373 Commonwealth Road (Route 30) were reviewed at the Feb. 5 ConCom meeting.
The project has been scaled down from its original 56 units to 52 units and it has been moved 10 feet closer toCommonwealth Road. Moving closer to Commonwealth road places the building farther from the wetlands at the rear of the project.
Additional features include having roof runoff go to a large cistern which is then used for irrigation of the reduced amount of formal landscaping near the building. Also there will be planting of native trees and shrubs behind the building to shield
the conservation area and wetlands there, more pervious surface in the rear of the building and a split rail fence to serve as a visual barrier for the wetlands area.
Snow maintenance in normal years can be accommodated by designated grassy areas on site. In a year like this one, some snow will have to be trucked off site.
The submitted plans contained a study of a possible "green" roof for the project, but this was found not to be feasible. Members of the Conservation Commission commented that they found the study very informative even though the roof cannot
be constructed on this project.
There will be a peer review of the plans and the hearing on this project was continued to the next regular meeting of ConCom, Feb 26.
Wayland Commons is an age-restricted (over 55) 48-unit 40B project to be built on Route 27 near Bow Road, adjacent to the Town Center project.
The land has been cleared and a number of trees were removed causing a suit by the town and a requirement to plant more trees. There were also large piles of dirt some of which was blown into the air.
According to the Wayland Commons attorney, the required trees have been planted and shrubs and smaller plants will be planted early in the spring this year. But the original permits are expiring. Wayland Commons appeared before the
Conservation Commission for a compliance review and extension of permits.
The project is now stable because the ground is frozen and under snow. Wayland Commons agreed to periodic inspections, not just inspections triggered by events. There will be inspections every three months starting in April.
Site maintenance is to continue. This includes mowing a meadow north of the entrance drive.
A compliance review for the project was scheduled for Sept. 1, 2010 and the permit was extended to Feb. 5, 2011.
SPECIAL TOWN CENTER MEETINGS
There has been some controversy about the scheduling of meetings of the Conservation Commission with the Town Center developers.
This summary of events so far indicates that the developer contributed greatly to delays.
The Town Center project came before the Conservation Commission first on June 26, 2008. At this meeting, it was determined that several requirements for NOI (Notice of Intent) documents had not been met.
For example, maps were in 1 to 40 ratio instead of the required ratio of 1:20.one to twenty. They did not clearly indicate the boundaries of the 100-foot RFA (River Front Area).
The elevation readings used NAVD (North American Vertical Datum) instead of NGVD (National Geodetic Vertical Datum). ConCom has been requiring NGVD. There was no overlay of the new construction proposed and the current Raytheon
buildings and parking lot.
In particular, the part of the maps and drawings with the new town building and the old "day care center" were unclear. Information required for aquifer protection was missing. It was unclear if one of the large stormwater basins was in the 100-
foot RFA. Nitrogenloading impacting groundwater and the Sudbury River was not discussed in the NOI.
Improved plans were submitted to ConCom, but they were passed out during the next scheduled meeting, July 17, so ConCommembers did not have time to study them. Most of the discussion therefore had to be postponed. However, at this point it
was agreed that peer reviewers specifically instructed on conservation commission concerns would have to be brought in.
Once the ConCom members were able to study the new plans, the Aug. 14 ConCom meeting brought up points of concern such as the fact that the required alternatives analysis for the RFAs was inadequate and that there were disturbances in the
30-foot no-disturb buffer. The proposed municipal building and its parking lot (later removed from the plans by Twenty Wayland) also brought up a number of problems because they were in a river front area. ConCom also requested a map of the
Raytheon environmental cleanup superimposed on the planned development.
ConCom was proceeding to determine the scope of work and hire the consultant.
ConCom indicated in a Sept. 18 meeting that it would be willing to have at least one and probably more than one special meeting devoted entirely to the Town Center. These special meetings are in addition to the regular twice-monthly meetings
devoted to all other projects in town.
On Sept. 19 the RFP was issued for a peer review.
On Sept. 29, the conservation commission filed an extensive list of their own comments based on the revised NOI.
On Sept. 29, Twenty Wayland wrote a letter removing the site for a municipal building and its parking lot from the plans. This means the town will have to present plans for the builoding and parking lot before the Conservation Commission.
On Sept. 29 an addendum to the RFP providing a schedule was issued. Briefly, the first meeting with peer reviewers was to take place Oct. 16. Then two weeks were allowed to iron out technical questions.
Then, after receiving a complete document package from Twenty Wayland, the reviewers agree to provide a draft letter indicating areas of compliance or non-compliance (due Nov 7).
Then a final memorandum would be due from the consultants Nov 21.
A discussion was to take place at the regular ConCom meeting Dec. 4. The final report would be due Dec 11.
However, there were delays in this schedule.
The preliminary meeting took place as scheduled as part of the Oct. 16 regular ConCom meeting. At this meeting it was reiterated that the town building site was not part of the plans and the wastewater treatment plant was also not in the project
scope, being the responsibility of the town.
The first special meeting was held Nov. 10 where a a draft peer review of regulatory compliance of the NOI (Notice of Intent) plans for the Town Center project was presented by Ben Gould and David Faist of CMG Environmental, town consultants.
This included more than 100 comments.
A number of these comments referred to inconsistent data and missing information, for example the location of the flood plain. Many of these same comments had been brought up months earlier in published comments to the FEIR (final
environmental impact report) made to the state.
On Nov. 19, 2008, the Conservation Commission held a second meeting devoted only to the Town Center Development in spite of the fact that (1)the staff meeting to be held earlier to iron out more technicalities was cancelled by the developer,
(2) the developer sent in a new letter about waivers the morning of Nov. 19 (not copied to the town consultants) and (3) the Conservation Commission had a full regular meeting the next day.
At the Dec, 4 regular ConCom meeting, where a large part of the meeting was reserved for the Town Center project, Twenty Wayland asked for an extension of five days to produce new plans by Dec. 15. ConCom agreed to a special meeting on
Dec. 15. However, new plans were not ready until Jan. 5, 2009.
At the Jan. 8 regular meeting some informal items took place. This was a "place holder" meeting as the consultants had not had time to study the new plans.
At a Jan. 15 special meeting one of the town consultants was present to discuss remaining concerns. A new draft memorandum from the consultants was presented. A number of the original concerns about the plans had been resolved, but some
important ones remained. Off-siteplans had not been communicated by Twenty Wayland until Jan. 9.
A special meeting was scheduled for Jan. 27, but this was cancelled by Twenty Wayland. The next special meeting is Feb 10.
There will also probably be another special meeting to consider the off-site (road widening) plans on Feb 24.
-- Betty Salzberg
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Michael Short, Editor