80WVN #80: More Questions re. FY06 Budget/Override
- Apr 11, 2005Wayland 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
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
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
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
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Wayland Voters Network
Margo Melnicove and Michael Short, Editors