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56WVN #56: Wayland's Budget and Who Pays for It

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  • waylandvoters2
    Dec 30, 2004
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      Wayland Voters Network
      December 30, 2004

      Dear Wayland Voter,

      We want to share a column published in the Town Crier earlier this
      month, written by Wayland resident Mike Patterson. It provides some
      food for thought during this time of both reflection and
      anticipation. We also want to wish you good health and much
      happiness in 2005.

      WAYLAND'S BUDGET AND WHO PAYS FOR IT

      In forthcoming elections and town meetings Wayland voters will be
      asked to approve a budget that has experienced enormous growth in
      recent years. The total budget for FY 1996 was $26.8 million. In FY
      2004 the budget grew to $46.5 million, an increase of 74%. The
      finance committee now reports that the operating budget request for
      next year will be $48.6 million, an 81% increase since FY 1996. This
      amount excludes any capital expenditures; however, it does assume a
      Proposition 2 1/2 override of $1.5 million.

      During this period, inflation (as measured by the Consumer Price
      Index) averaged only 2.32% per year, yet our budget went up 81%.
      Wayland's population remained virtually unchanged at approximately
      13,000 residents.

      Who is going to fund this $48.1 million? Wayland presently receives
      only 12 % of its budget from the State. The rest of our budget is
      funded through local property taxes and automobile excise taxes.

      Here is some demographic information about Wayland residents that you
      may want to consider as you decide on priorities for the town budget:

      - Wayland households have a median income of $101,000.
      (Weston, in contrast, has a median household income of $154,000, and
      Sudbury's median household income is $119,000.)

      - In Wayland, 22% of the households have an annual income of $49,999
      or less.

      - And 9.4 % of Wayland's households live on a total income of $24,999
      or less.

      Think for a moment, could you live in Wayland on $24,000 or even
      $49,000?

      It is also of note that although 22% of Wayland families have an
      annual income of $49,999 or less, another 24% have incomes of
      $200,000 or more.

      A significant number of property owners in Wayland are on a fixed
      income, and many are older residents. In the U.S., 12% of the
      population is age 65 or older. Wayland is slightly older than the
      rest of the nation with 14% age 65 or older. Many of these Wayland
      property owners purchased their homes thirty or forty years ago at
      comparatively low prices. Over the years property values have
      escalated sharply. Their homes may currently be worth twenty or
      thirty times the original purchase price and have a tax bill to
      match. The income of these property owners, however, may not have
      kept pace.

      An unsympathetic and disturbing comment we often hear is "If they
      don't like it in Wayland, they can move." This view is troubling for
      two reasons. First, the older residents are the people who helped
      build the fabric of our town. They volunteered in the schools, led
      girl scout troops, coached youth teams, served on town committees and
      boards. They are the citizens who helped develop the strong school
      system that is now a cornerstone of our community. The suggestion
      that they leave ignores all the contributions they have made --
      contributions the rest of us currently enjoy.

      Second, if these residents sell their relatively modest homes, many
      of the homes will be purchased by young families with children.
      This, in turn, will increase the burden on our already overloaded
      school system.

      The issue here is not the school budget or the capital budget, or any
      individual budget item. The issue is the total Wayland budget. It
      is crucial that Wayland voters, including town officials, give
      careful thought to each aspect of the proposed budget. Just because
      an item is requested doesn't mean it is justified or that the town
      can, or should pay for it. Every voter needs to look at the big
      picture - the total picture - and then consider how each proposed
      budget item will contribute to the economic well being of our town.
      Is each item truly necessary? Is it an expenditure that everyone,
      wealthy or otherwise, should shoulder?

      Michael Patterson
      Claypit Hill Road

      Michael Patterson has served on numerous Wayland commissions and
      committees. He has been Commissioner of Trust Funds since 1987.
      This column was originally published on December 9, 2004, and is
      reprinted with permission of the Wayland Town Crier and the author.

      Thank you for reading this WVN newsletter. Please forward it to your
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      please email their name and address to waylandvoters@....

      Wayland Voters Network
      Margo Melnicove, Chair
      Michael Short, Treasurer