WVN #148: HSBC Contemplates Future
- 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
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
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.
Bob Gordon brought up something that has been discussed infrequently
in Wayland even though it has become common elsewhere: large-scale
In a number of states with property tax limitations similar to
Massachusetts' Prop. 2-1/2, private funds are being used to augment
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
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Wayland Voters Network
Michael Short, Editor