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WVN #148: HSBC Contemplates Future

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  • waylandvoters4
    Wayland Voters Network February 26, 2006 Dear Wayland Voter, Taxpayers have vital immediate issues to consider. Do you want a shopping/housing complex on Route
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 26, 2006
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      Wayland Voters Network February 26, 2006

      Dear Wayland Voter,
      Taxpayers have vital immediate issues to consider. Do you want a
      shopping/housing complex on Route 20? Do you favor a property tax
      increase nearly as large as the 9 percent approved last year? Although
      rebuilding or renovating Wayland High School has moved to the back
      burner, voters may be asked in the spring for more money to plan the
      next step. See the report below.

      MEETINGS NEXT WEEK
      Monday Feb. 27, 7 p.m.: The Board of Selectmen discusses Town Meeting
      articles including zoning to permit the proposed $100-million town
      center housing/shopping development. Then the Finance Committee gives
      the selectmen its long-term financial projections. Meanwhile, the
      Planning Board continues to meet frequently, even holidays and
      weekends, to draft the town center zoning article. See
      www.wayland.ma.us/planning for details.

      SCHOOL CONSTRUCTION MAY BE YEARS AWAY

      The High School Building Committee continues its work, but in a
      changed environment.

      When the HSBC's plan for a $57-million rebuilt campus went down to
      defeat at the polls in January 2005, voters could only guess at the
      final cost because the state's reimbursement system had been
      suspended. Some members of the School Committee and the HSBC
      predicted that new reimbursement regulations and amounts would be
      much the same as in the past and urged taxpayers to plunge ahead.

      Today we know more, and what we know tends to support the skepticism
      of those who voted No a year ago. Under the previous system, the
      state Department of Education doled out money with great generosity
      and little oversight. Then the state evidently decided that it was
      time for adult supervision. The treasurer now oversees a new agency,
      the Massachusetts School Building Authority, which is evaluating the
      condition of every Massachusetts school building and plans to set
      priorities and work step by step with municipalities on repairs and
      replacements. The process could be painstaking and slow.

      New regulations are being issued later than promised, and the MSBA
      won't look at any statements of need and intent from towns and cities
      until July 2007. Wayland Superintendent Gary Burton told the HSBC
      that some educators believe no money will be committed until 2009 and
      large-scale work will be delayed until 2011 or 2012.

      Wayland missed opportunities in the heyday of the old reimbursement
      system when such campuses as Lincoln-Sudbury, Hudson, Acton-Boxboro,
      Groton-Dunstable and Weston were rebuilt or renovated. On the other
      hand, under the new needs-based system Wayland might have a relatively
      high priority. According to Burton, state inspectors predicted
      "catastrophic" problems here. Still, Wayland will join many applicants
      when the MSBA begins making decisions.

      WHO SHOULD BE ON BUILDING COMMITTEE?

      When the HSBC met on Feb. 9, members were open to expanding from 11 to
      as many as 16 people to add diversity. Most current members said
      they'd like to continue. If the School Committee decided to disband
      them, some members said, they'd apply again. (A few days later, the
      School Committee discussed an expansion, not a fresh start.)

      The HSBC has about $17,500 remaining from the $355,000 in planning
      funds approved by voters. Members were divided on whether to ask
      voters to augment that by about $25,000 to evaluate the new
      regulations and prepare to apply by July 2007. (The School Committee
      is considering asking for that much or more at a special Town
      Meeting in the spring.)

      HSBC Chair Lea Anderson noted that the MSBA doesn't want
      municipalities to proceed without the state's approval. This was
      known before the 2005 vote, though Wayland officials didn't discuss it.

      The School Committee has expressed full confidence in the committee
      it appointed in 2004. The HSBC has given no sign of changing its
      decision to hire HMFH Architects and Turner Construction Co., which
      produced the rejected plan. So it is open to question whether a
      slightly larger committee would operate any differently from the
      present group.

      HSBC members say the committee is relatively diverse and came slowly
      to consensus on the $57-million plan as the best choice for the town.
      The committee accepted administrators' list of needs and chose from
      three design alternatives that carried roughly the same price tag.

      STRATEGY AND PR

      Some HSBC members said the 2005 proposal failed partly because of the
      rush to a special election date, comparing it to the sprint toward
      the failed town center plan last November. They called for early and
      frequent communication with the public in the future.

      "Unless we can make people get scared and understand the issue, we'll
      never get a penny," said member Mary Lentz. Some members believe
      that their unscientific though extensive survey of voters demonstrated
      woeful ignorance of the situation.

      School Committee member Bob Gordon, who attended the meeting, said the
      HSBC needed someone doing public relations full-time. "We need a Lisa
      Valone," Gordon said, referring to a Wayland resident who speaks
      frequently at School Committee meetings and writes about school
      matters for Waylandenews.

      Committee members tended to agree on the idea that the group should
      concentrate on a proposal that voters will accept -- a salable
      solution as opposed to a total solution, as one put it.

      "I don't think a big project is salable," Lentz said. Some raised the
      possibility of a big plan phased over a long period.

      Inflation factors commonly used by architects and builders indicate
      that the $57-million plan could cost well over $100 million if built
      several years from now. Guaranteed significant state reimbursement is
      likely to be an important consideration for voters.

      PRIVATE FUNDS

      Bob Gordon brought up something that has been discussed infrequently
      in Wayland even though it has become common elsewhere: large-scale
      private funding.

      In a number of states with property tax limitations similar to
      Massachusetts' Prop. 2-1/2, private funds are being used to augment
      taxes.

      In some places, particularly in California, private funding of
      academic resources has raised serious concerns about public policy.

      But what is being discussed here is similar to a trend reported
      recently in the New York Times and elsewhere, private funds and naming
      opportunities for school facilities. School supporters in some states
      have raised millions in private funds. A new Wayland High School
      auditorium and gym, representing about $15 million, were the most
      controversial parts of the rejected $57-million plan.

      Wayland's median annual income is a little over $100,000. In addition,
      there is a noticeable number of residents with incomes of $1 million
      to more than $20 million. -- Michael Short

      Thank you for reading this WVN newsletter. Please forward it to
      your friends and neighbors in Wayland. If they want to receive
      their own copy, they can send an email to waylandvoters@... and
      they will be signed up for the listserv. Or, they can sign
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      waylandvotersnetwork-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Click reply and send
      after receiving an e-mail confirming the subscription.

      Wayland Voters Network
      Michael Short, Editor
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