Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

WVN #240: $1.896 million override decision

Expand Messages
  • waylandvoters1
    Dear Wayland Voter, Wayland voters will decide on a property tax override on April 8 in the wake of recent override rejections by six of eight eastern
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 4, 2008
    • 0 Attachment
      Dear Wayland Voter,

      Wayland voters will decide on a property tax override on April 8
      in the wake of recent override rejections by six of eight eastern
      Massachusetts towns including Sudbury and Harvard. The
      $1.896 million Wayland override on the ballot is the fifth in
      seven years and smaller than the previous two.

      Taxpayers will be hit with a 2.5 percent increase under Prop.
      2-1/2 in any case.

      Question 1, the operating override, would add roughly 3.9
      percent more, and permanently.

      Ballot Question 2, a $1.93 million debt exclusion, would add
      about one-half of one percent but wouldn't be permanent. (For
      details see the section on Question 2 below.)

      Add them all up, and with the small additional amount under
      the Community Preservation Act you have a rough estimate of 7

      This newsletter will summarize the arguments for and against
      the override and the consequences if it passes and if it fails.
      SUGGESTION TO READERS: Please pass this newsletter along
      to at least five people you know who may not be aware of the
      issues in this important town election. Thanks.
      Adding to the controversy over creating a Department of Public
      Works is the fact that the Park and Recreation Commission
      unanimously and vigorously opposes it. To learn more, attend
      the Monday April 7 Commission meeting or watch the live
      WayCAM telecast. The proposed DPW will be the major agenda
      item. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. and public comment is
      scheduled for 7:50 p.m., just before discussion begins. Voters
      will decide the issue at Town Meeting, which begins on
      Thursday April 10. At Candidates Night on April 2 Commissioner
      Anna Meliones said the Commission is compelled to fight for the
      integrity of programs that serve many residents ranging from
      toddlers to seniors. A DPW would decrease rather than increase
      efficiency, she said, would result in higher immediate costs
      to the town and wouldn't produce significant long-term savings.

      Look at the the Total Assessment line at the bottom of the tax bill
      you received recently. Multiply that by .07 and you'll have a rough
      idea of the effect on your finances if both questions pass and are
      then approved at Town Meeting on April 10. If this were repeated
      every year your taxes would double in about 10 years.

      Proponents of the operating override talk about painful cuts if the
      override fails. Those who oppose it talk about painful
      consequences to many taxpayers if it passes.


      As in 2006 Wayland lumps everything into one question, unlike
      other towns such as Sudbury and Duxbury. "No department goes
      unscathed" if the override fails, as Board of Selectmen Chairman
      Bill Whitney puts it. Thus health and safety are treated the same
      as, say, school athletic teams or the hours town offices are
      open. Lisa Valone of the influential pro-school ballot question
      committee SOSWayland appeared before the selectmen to
      endorse the single-option choice.

      Alan Reiss, the only selectman who opposes the override,
      advocates setting priorities, with health and safety first, and
      finding ways to end the steady reliance on overrides. He and
      other opponents say the town won't look seriously at spending
      unless forced to.

      Proponents say the proposed cuts would cost the jobs of a fire
      fighter and two police officers and force the Cochituate fire
      station to close at times. SOSWayland predicts "potentially far
      slower response times for life-saving emergency measures."
      The Council on Aging would be closed one day a week, limiting
      the ability to handle serious matters of medical appointments
      and meal delivery. Reiss estimates the cost of keeping these
      services at present levels at about $240,000, which he says
      could be transferred from Wayland's $5 million cash reserve
      without endangering the town's bond rating.


      To some opponents, the Finance Committee and selectmen
      majority are using the threat to emergency services to "coerce"
      Yes votes. The Cochituate station handles the majority of
      emergency calls and is the closer station to all but one of
      Wayland's schools. The choice becomes: If you want the
      quarter-million-dollar cost of consistent and rapid emergency
      service you must vote for an override nearly eight times that size.

      Opponents, including the ballot question committee Save Our
      Citizens, note that last-minute budget adjustments allow the
      station to remain open 95 percent of the time even if the override
      fails. They quote Selectmen Reiss and Doug Leard as
      promising to ask Town Meeting voters to approve further funding
      to keep the station open at all times. If the override fails, Town
      Meeting will be asked to approve a smaller budget.

      The selectmen-appointed Finance Committee and four of the
      selectmen support the override, noting that the amount was
      shaved from $2.6 million. They say pension and health
      insurance increases consume the 2.4 percent annual tax
      increase allowed by law without an override. They describe the
      budget as "level-funded" for several years and cite the work of an
      ad hoc committee in finding additional savings. After two
      decades of Prop. 2-1/2, they argue, there is no more fat to cut
      from the proposed $60-million budget. They acknowledge that
      overrides may be necessary every year or two until the situation
      improves. There are some encouraging signs of greater state
      aid, added commercial tax revenue and a slower pace of health
      care increases, but nothing that translates into significant
      immediate relief.


      The list of cuts (see Page 10 of your pink Town Meeting Warrant
      booklet) is long and varied: reduced hours at the library, layoffs of
      elementary teachers and school librarians and staff, some high
      school teams and all Middle School athletics, delays in road
      work, cutbacks in other town departments. Superintendent Gary
      Burton says, "We would see an increase in class sizes at all
      three levels." (Opponents respond that there is no conclusive
      evidence that, within a certain range, class size affects students'
      performance.) Details at the websites of the FinCom
      www.wayland.ma.us/accounting/index.htm and the School
      Committee www.waylandschoolcommittee.org.


      Override proponents argue that passing overrides helps
      Wayland retain its Moody's Aaa bond rating. Those arguments
      are countered in a recent MetroWest Daily News story.

      "Passing the override to raise the tax limit does not necessarily
      translate to a better bond rating," Susan Kendall, a Moody's
      Investment Service analyst, told the News.

      "If the override fails but we put into action our 'Plan B' for the
      budget, then most likely it won't affect our rating," Wayland
      Treasurer Paul Keating said. "If it fails but the town proceeds
      blindly with the budget then that would be a different issue."

      Many factors make up a bond rating, officials say, among them
      balancing the budget , borrowing modestly and keeping strong
      cash reserves.

      Though FinCom Chair Cherry Karlson predicted at a budget
      hearing that retaining the Aaa bond rating would save the town
      hundreds of thousands of dollars in borrowing costs, she
      appeared at a Board of Selectmen meeting later with a
      clarification. Saving hundreds of thousands would require a
      great deal of debt, she explained.

      Wayland officials are indeed talking about taking on a great deal
      of debt in the near future. If Wayland dropped to the next rating,
      Keating estimated, it would pay an additional 5 to 10 basis
      points in interest at current rates. (A basis point is
      one-hundredth of one percentage point.) Using the larger
      figure, Wayland would save about $5,500 over the life of a
      10-year, $1 million loan. Officials have discussed a highway
      garage at $14 million, a municipal building at the Town Center,
      cost unknown, and High School renovations or replacement.
      Even with the state paying 40 percent of the cost, a new school
      could cost $50 million or more.

      -- Michael Short

      QUESTION 2

      The second question on the ballot asks for a debt exemption of
      $1.93 million for a variety of repairs and replacements.

      Approval requires a majority vote at the polls and a two-thirds
      approval at town meeting. A copy of the ballot is at
      Since this item has received less press than the operating
      override, and the amount isn't specified on the ballot, an
      explanation might be in order.

      What's included in the $1.93 million?

      Lately, the Board of Selectmen and Finance Committee have
      preferred to bundle capital projects into one vote. In the past, the
      Town Meeting afforded the opportunity to vote on individual items
      proposed for funding by debt.

      Once the debt is paid off, taxes on that debt vanish. However,
      Wayland has a propensity to replenish the expiring debt load
      with new projects, so the tax burden from debt doesn't seem to
      shrink very much if at all.

      As recently as 2004 the Town Meeting Warrant booklet itemized
      the debt in detail to make it easy for the voters to know the
      impact of new debt items. A report on debt is on page 21 of the
      town's latest Annual Report, which is available at Town Hall, but
      is not mailed to all residents. In Fiscal 07, the town paid
      $899,333 toward its debt, which was $22.3 million at the end of
      that fiscal year, an increase of nearly $1.8 million from the end of
      FY 06. The report shows no debt expiring in FY 08 or FY 09. In
      2010, the town will have paid off $1.095 million in debt incurred
      in 2000.

      The Finance Committee has said the cost for the debt exclusion
      will be $40 for the median value home of $544,400 and a
      decreasing amount in following years.

      This year, the FinCom has conservatively requested only
      $125,000 in capital items as part of the operating budget. The
      rest lies in the proposed debt exemption.


      What will this $1.93 million buy for the town? Capital items
      come in three categories: building repairs, and equipment and
      vehicles costing more than $100,000.

      Some liberty is taken with the last category. For instance, the
      $315,000 proposed for school "technology" undoubtedly involves
      many personal computers, each of which costs far less than
      $100,000 and has a shorter useful life than is often preferred for
      capital items.

      Speaking of schools, there is also $300,000 for building repairs
      including: $20,000 lighting upgrade in the middle school;
      $40,000 to repair walkways and create ADA-compliant ramps at
      entrances to the middle school; $100,000 for HVAC connection
      at middle school, $90,000 to upgrade fire alarm and doorway
      holdback systems at the three elementary schools; $40,000
      carpet replacement at Happy Hollow and Claypit Hill.

      Other building repairs are also included in the debt exemption,
      such as $895,000 for repairs to town buildings. The majority
      ($600,000) is for the water-damaged, five-year-old Public Safety
      Building. Because the building sits on a high water table, the
      town has been involved in litigation and repairs for years.

      Other buildings included in this amount are the library
      ($105,000), town building ($140,000), and Cochituate Station 2

      The Highway Department wants $85,000 for a study of the Route
      30 and 27 intersection as well as $45,000 in truck attachments
      and $35,000 for traffic calming. The intersection study is
      preliminary to having the state improve the intersection. Also on
      the schedule is $145,000 for a truck for the landfill/transfer
      station. The FinCom has said the type of operation of this facility
      when the landfill reaches capacity will determine if the town buys
      the truck.

      For Park and Rec, there's $200,000 to replace the light posts for
      the Cochituate ball field, which are said to be nearing the end of
      their life. This ball field is often cited as the poster child for
      overused fields in Wayland, so one is prompted to ask whether
      we will be hearing in a year or two we should have an artificial
      turf field to maximize the use of the lights?

      The full details may be found in the Town Meeting Warrant, page
      38, and the School Committee FY09 Budget Message, page 7.
      The Finance Committee presentation is at

      -- Molly Upton

      To be sure you continue to receive WVN newsletters optimally
      and in your inbox (instead of bulk or junk folders) it may help to
      add to your address book or safe sender list:

      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 themselves up by sending a blank
      email to:
      Click reply and send after receiving an e-mail confirming the

      Wayland Voters Network
      Michael Short, Editor
    Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.