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80WVN #80: More Questions re. FY06 Budget/Override

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  • waylandvoters2
    Apr 11, 2005
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      Wayland Voters Network
      April 11, 2005

      Dear Wayland Voter,

      ANNUAL TOWN ELECTION TUES., APRIL 26
      ANNUAL TOWN MEETING BEGINS THURS., APRIL 28
      SPECIAL TOWN MEETING BEGINS WED., MAY 4

      Upcoming meetings of interest:

      Tonight, Mon., April 11 - School Committee public hearing on FY06
      budget, Middle School Auditorium, 7:30pm.

      Wed., April 13 - League of Women Voters Candidates' Night, Middle
      School Auditorium, 7:30pm.

      The following report on the April 4 meeting of the Board of Selectmen
      was prepared by WVN subscriber Molly Upton.

      BOS/FINCOM: MORE QUESTIONS ABOUT BUDGET, UPCOMING OVERRIDE VOTE

      The Selectmen held a hearing with representatives from the Finance
      Committee on the April 26 tax override ballot question. FinCom Chair
      Bob Lentz said many expenses hit the town with unanticipated
      increases. If the $2.3 million override passes, property taxes will
      increase 8.9% and free cash and water reserves will be depleted by
      $800,000, leaving the town with $1.2 million in free cash.

      Some of the topics discussed during the meeting included: teacher
      salary increases that exceed Proposition 2.5; efforts to control
      health care costs; whether the town has a fall-back proposal of a
      smaller override if the current proposition fails; different
      interpretations on a `no' vote; and a need for the town to change its
      thought process on what it can afford.

      There was considerable discussion about the contracts signed by the
      School Committee last year, which provide a 3.5% increase in salaries
      in FY 06 and again in FY 07, exceeding the guidelines given by
      FinCom. Some citizens wondered how the School Committee could sign a
      contract that helps propel the town into an override. Although
      Selectman Betsy Connolly sat in on the negotiations, by state law the
      School Committee is the contract signer.

      According to Connolly, the unions were pressing hard for a 3.5%
      increase across the state, and the unions understood such a hefty
      increase could mean some loss of positions or hours. Other towns did
      not buckle to the unions. For example Lincoln, whose teacher pay
      scale is close to Wayland's
      http://www.lincnet.org/schoolcommittee/info/Budget/FAQv6General.pdf
      settled at a lower rate, according to the Boston Globe: "Town
      teachers have agreed to a three-year contract that offers across-the-
      board salary increases of 2.75 percent next school year, 2.25 percent
      in the 2006-2007 school year, and 2 percent in 2007-2008, said
      Superintendent Michael Brandmeyer. The contract between the Lincoln
      School Committee and the Lincoln Teachers Association, which
      represents about 150 teachers in kindergarten through eighth grade,
      runs from Sept. 1 of this year to Aug. 31, 2008. It includes adding
      time to the school days, revisions to teacher evaluation procedures,
      support for teacher professional development, and curriculum
      improvement, Brandmeyer said in a written statement."

      When Selectman Michael Tichnor implied that a vote against the
      override was a vote against the schools, several attendees disagreed
      with his view. Selectman candidate Alan Reiss pointed out that an
      individual's vote on the override is a matter of personal choice
      reflecting one's comfort in paying additional taxes as well as one's
      views on overrides and town finances.

      [For example, one might note that in FY 05, the schools' operating
      budget jumped 6.6% while the total public safety budget rose 1.5%.
      The schools' proposed operating budget for FY 06 rises another 5.6%,
      while the public safety budget is nearly level, with an increase of
      less than 1%.]

      The Selectmen and FinCom representatives said they had no plans to
      offer a smaller override proposal, should the current $2.3 million
      request fail. Someone pointed out that there is time in the schedule
      to have another election before the end of the fiscal year.

      Because the town's major operating expenses include health care costs
      (14%) as well as salaries (68%), Connolly explained she and Selectman
      Brian O'Herlihy have spent 300 hours trying to find ways to reduce
      health care costs. Lentz observed that health care costs have doubled
      in the past few years. Connolly observed that the teachers' contract
      specifies its members will receive "the best health plan offered by
      Wayland" rather than naming specific plans, as is the case with some
      yet-to-be-signed unions. Thus it is possible that in the future the
      town may be able to better negotiate with health care providers. The
      town pays about 70% of health care costs and the employee 30%; FinCom
      said some towns pay more of these costs.

      In another effort, the town is piloting a plan with one union that
      offers the employee cash to leave the town's health care plan (and
      presumably be on the spouse's plan). O'Herlihy observed that one-
      third of health care coverage is for town retirees.

      The list of cuts that has been published on the town website is
      subject to fine-tuning by the Selectmen and the Personnel Board.
      Also, someone pointed out that the number of people losing jobs is
      not yet known.

      [From Margo Melnicove] Similar ground was covered the next night
      during the Finance Committee's public information hearing on the FY06
      budget and proposed operational override. You can download the
      Finance Committee's entire power point presentation and find other
      information on the FY06 budget at
      http://www.wayland.ma.us/accounting/index.htm.

      FinCom Chair Bob Lentz said if the override fails, a substitute
      budget will be submitted to Town Meeting that's $2.3 million less
      than the current proposed FY 06 budget. Lentz said no other
      alternatives are being considered.

      All departments were asked for budget cuts in the event the override
      fails. The result, said Lentz, is that 28.62 Full Time Equivalent
      positions could be eliminated. Lentz did not know how many of these
      are vacant, and how many would involve layoffs. The School Dept.
      shows a reduction of 17.62 FTE out of approximately 400 positions, or
      4%. The Fire Dept. could lose 3 FTE out of 25, or 12%; Police could
      lose 2 FTE out of 22, or 9%.

      Several charts were displayed, showing how Wayland compares to
      similar towns in terms of residential tax burden, per capita
      expenditures, etc. (Info available at State Dept.of Revenue website.)
      Based on average property tax bills in 2004, Wayland is number eight
      on a list of top-taxed towns in the state. A member of the public
      suggested looking at taxes as a percentage of assessed value, rather
      than just comparing the average tax bill in one town with the average
      in another.

      Wayland Voters Network has obtained from a local realtor the average
      sale price of houses in each of these towns in 2004, and done the
      math. In terms of average property tax per $100,000 of average
      property value, Wayland is essentially in a three-way tie for tops in
      the state. Here is the list:

      Property tax from Boston Globe 1/23/05, p. B8
      Average sale price from Greater Boston Multiple Listing Service

      Rank by tax Town Property tax Sale price $/100K

      1. Weston $11,767 $ 1,513,402 778
      2. Sherborn 9,889 903,585 1,094
      3. Lincoln 9,730 1,133,103 859
      4. Carlisle 9,224 871,933 1,058
      5. Dover 9,004 1,262,324 713
      6. Concord 8,805 1,016,324 866
      7. Sudbury 8,101 737,727 1,098
      8. Wayland 7,904 724,732 1,091
      9. Cohasset 7,804 912,429 855
      10. Belmont 7,686 767,598 1,001
      11. Wellesley 7,564 1,108,877 682
      12. Manchester7,139 797,312 895

      Rank by Tax Dollars per $100K sale price

      1. Sudbury $1,098
      2. Sherborn 1,094
      3. Wayland 1,091
      4. Carlisle 1,058
      5. Belmont 1,001
      6. Manchester 895
      7. Concord 866
      8. Lincoln 859
      9. Cohasset 855
      10.Weston 778
      11.Dover 713
      12.Wellesley 682

      A note on the status of WVN. When the Wayland Voters Network was
      formed in February 2004, we consulted the Massachusetts Office of
      Campaign and Political Finance for advice about the status of a
      newsletter that didn't plan to endorse candidates or issues but might
      solicit funds to reach voters without email. The OCPF recommended
      registering as a political action committee to cover all
      possibilities. Recently we consulted OCPF again. When the general
      counsel looked at our material, he concluded that WVN is not a PAC.
      Acting on that advice, we ended that status.

      So what is WVN? It remains exactly what it was, a newsletter
      dedicated to encouraging voter participation and providing
      information and analysis you may not find elsewhere. WVN is not an
      alternative to the Wayland Town Crier and the Boston Globe; it is
      simply another independent journalistic voice.

      As before, we appreciate donations for postage and copying of
      newsletters mailed to those without email. Wayland Voters Network,
      265 Pelham Island Road, Wayland. 508-358-2365.

      Thank you for reading this WVN newsletter. Please forward it to your
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      Wayland Voters Network
      Margo Melnicove and Michael Short, Editors