WVN #260: Selectmen urge No vote on Question 1
- Dear Wayland Voter,
The selectmen are urging you to vote to retain the state income tax.
Also in this newsletter: The list of ways to spend the $3 million "gift" from the Town Center developers is being pared down.
SELECTMEN OPPOSE QUESTION 1
As the leader of the campaign to end the state income tax sat in the audience, the Board of Selectmen voted unanimously to recommend that voters reject Question 1 on the November ballot.
Knowing that the Board resolution was on the agenda for the Sept. 2 meeting, Carla Howell, a 19-year Wayland resident who heads the Committee for Small Government, which sponsored the binding referendum, spoke during public comment. She
criticized the Board for considering the resolution without first holding a hearing for Wayland residents. State Rep. Tom Conroy (D-Wayland) was also in the audience and argued against Question 1, calling it "fundamentally radical, irresponsible,
cruel, frivolous and ultimately painful to taxpayers."
The initiative would cut state revenues by an estimated $12 billion, roughly 40 percent of state spending. (You can find arguments for and against it at www.smallgovernmentact.org and www.votenoquestion1.com.)
The selectmen disagreed with Howell's argument that cutting off funding is the best way to force zero-based budgeting and eliminate waste while retaining essential services. The Committee says that taxpayers would save an average of about
$3,600 a year. Conroy and the selectmen said there would be devastating effects on education, roads, bridges, health care and services for the elderly, and local property taxes would increase.
When Howell accused the selectmen of not doing their homework, they replied that they had studied the consequences for Wayland in detail. Board members summarized the history of state aid reductions and the need for tax overrides to maintain
present services. They said there should be a public forum before Wayland voters go to the polls on Nov 4.
After a few minutes of discussion with Howell and Conroy, the selectmen took the vote as planned.
The Board resolution says that annual state aid to municipalities totals $7 billion, of which $5.3 billion is for schools and "general municipal assistance." It urges other cities and towns to join in opposing the initiative. A Boston Globe estimate showed
about $4 billion for school aid.
A similar initiative in 2002 failed but surprised many by garnering 45.3 percent of the vote. This time, opposition to the tax-cutting measure appears to be more intense. The earlier initiative came after the state halted gradual reductions of the tax
rate from 5.85 percent to 5 percent. The current rate is 5.3 percent.
SPENDING $3 MILLION FROM CENTER PROJECT
Watch for one more chance to suggest how the $3 million payment from the Town Center developers should be spent.
Earlier opportunities for comment produced many suggestions, which the selectmen discussed on Sept. 2. There were so many, Chairman Michael Tichnor joked, that adopting all of them would cost $50 million.
The discussion was intended mainly to get a sense of how the Board members felt about priorities and categories. The Board will resume the discussion in two weeks and after that schedule another chance for public comment.
One consensus emerged when Selectman Doug Leard suggested putting at least $1 million in free cash, where it could be used for any purpose, such as avoiding an override. (Supporters of the Town Center shopping/housing project on Route 20 had
argued that the "gift" money from Twenty Wayland would pay for two overrides. ) The other four selectmen disagreed with Leard, saying the money should be used to improve areas near the project .
As Selectman Bill Whitney put it, this is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to create things that the town couldn't otherwise afford, such as sidewalks, bike paths, buried utilities, a place to launch boats, ornamental lighting in the historic district. Whitney
said the $3 million negotiated with Twenty Wayland was intended to give the town flexibility in adding amenities. Some ideas would aim at integrating the project with adjacent parts of town.
Such suggestions as high school repairs or buying and preserving the former Lee's Farm Stand property on Route 20 dropped by the wayside.
Some remaining possibilities are relatively inexpensive, the selectmen said. A sidewalk can be a five-figure project, while buried utility lines could run well into six figures. The Board mulled such things as historic area signs and interpretive displays, a
gazebo and an ice skating rink at the Town Center green. The Historic District Commission offered suggestions which the selectmen said they would consider.
State Rep. Tom Conroy said he would seek any state aid that might be available.
The $140-million Town Center is projected to open in the fall of 2009.
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Wayland Voters Network
Michael Short, Editor