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WVN #45: Welcome and Thank You

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  • waylandvoters
    Wayland Voters Network November 7, 2004 To WVN subscribers new and old: Thank you. Thanks for reading our reports and letting us know what you think. Thanks
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      Wayland Voters Network
      November 7, 2004

      To WVN subscribers new and old:

      Thank you. Thanks for reading our reports and letting us know what you
      think. Thanks for contributing money to help us reach those without email.
      And thanks for the marvelous response you gave WVN volunteers handing
      out information at the polls on election day.

      Nov. 2 was a wonderful opportunity to talk with many of you. It was also a
      chance to discover that many voters weren't aware of the special tax
      override election on Jan. 25 related to the $57.7 million proposal (latest
      estimate) to build a new Wayland High School.

      During the day one parent expressed his concerns to a volunteer this way: I
      have a child who will enter the high school soon. I know what the High
      School Building Committee recommends and I read WVN reports. Tell me,
      what does WVN recommend?

      It's a good question, and the answer is that WVN simply recommends that
      every voter study the issues and then vote. Our goal is to inform Wayland
      residents about town issues that affect everyone. At the moment, we are
      focusing on the most imminent issue and the biggest proposed spending
      project in Wayland's history. We report on what we observe and learn at
      meetings where the proposed high school project is discussed so that you
      can track what is happening as the proposal evolves. Sometimes we analyze
      the information we have gathered to put it into context. And if we perceive an
      obstacle to voter participation -- such as the scheduling of a tax override
      election in January, or the refusal of a majority of the Board of Selectmen
      (Connolly, Tichnor, Whitney) to send absentee ballot applications to
      residents prior to that election -- we object, and urge town officials to
      remove such obstacles.

      Wayland faces many challenges described in the new Master Plan, and we
      believe that the best way to address them is to ensure that important
      decisions are made by as many citizens as possible. The higher the voter
      turnout, the greater the chance of a decision that everyone can live with.

      One conversation late on election night illustrates what we're trying to
      accomplish. A parent who had just voted stopped to chat about the flyer she
      took from a volunteer. Overhearing that exchange, another parent walked up
      and joined in. Within seconds a lively discussion was underway between the
      two.

      "If the buildings are inadequate, our ranking in the Boston Magazine
      comparison will drop," said one.

      "But it's not about the buildings," said the other. "It's about the
      teaching."

      And so it went for several minutes of polite disagreement and exploration of
      choices. We would like to see that sort of discussion taking place all over
      town.

      We hope voters will examine the HSBC proposals carefully, read the local
      newspapers and WVN newsletters, and share their suggestions with all of
      these organizations and with elected and appointed town officials.

      In future reports we will put Wayland's proposed project in the context of
      high school construction projects in other towns. We will offer information
      on the high school proposal's impact on Wayland taxes. If you know of
      anything going on elsewhere that might help guide Wayland's choices,
      please let us know.

      We'd like to end this newsletter with answers to some questions we were
      asked on election day.

      -- If approved by voters, what would the January 25 tax override ballot
      question do?

      It would allow the Town to exceed Proposition 2-1/2 tax increase limits in
      order to borrow approximately $4.2 million for the design of a new Wayland
      High School, as endorsed by the School Committee. The proposed plan calls
      for demolition of all WHS buildings except the Field House, construction of
      a new high school, and renovation of the Field House. The latest estimated
      total cost: $57.7 million.

      -- What about the money needed for construction and completing the
      proposed project?

      An additional $51-53+ million would have to be approved in a separate
      election in the future. That might be the largest amount ever asked of a
      Massachusetts town for a school project.

      -- How much would be reimbursed by the new Massachusetts School
      Building Authority?

      No one knows. New standards for reimbursable costs will not be known until
      mid-2006. Cities and towns cannot apply for SBA funds until mid-2007.
      Funding is limited, and reimbursement is not guaranteed.

      -- What would be the high school project's impact on my taxes?

      The latest draft prepared by the High School Building Committee shows that
      debt payments for the high school project could increase your taxes by as
      much as 10.7 percent of your current year taxes. If interest rates rise
      toward historical highs and/or project costs escalate, the actual increase
      in your taxes could be greater.

      -- What is the relationship between the Special Election ballot question on
      January 25 and the Special Town Meeting on January 27?

      A tax override ballot question must be approved by voters in an election.
      If approved, then voters who attend the Special Town Meeting would vote on
      whether to appropriate the actual amount. If the ballot question fails, then
      voters at the Town Meeting could be asked to consider other motions such as
      passing over the article, or appropriating an amount that would not exceed
      Proposition 2-1/2 limits, etc.

      -- Is the January 25 ballot question the only tax override voters will be
      asked to consider in 2005?

      No. The annual Town Election in April 2005 is expected to include a ballot
      question seeking voter approval of a $1-2 million tax override to cover FY06
      operating budget increases.

      -- What's the difference between a debt exclusion override, to be voted on
      Jan. 25, and a regular override, to be voted in April?

      A debt exclusion override applies specifically to the payments to be made
      for the particular borrowed sum of money, and allows those payments to be
      added to tax bills for the term of the particular debt, usually many years.
      A regular override allows general taxes to be raised by the amount of the
      override and adds to the town's tax base. Let's say the town votes for a
      regular override of $1 million in April 2005. The following year there is an
      extra $1 million in the total tax base and taxes can be increased by 2-1/2
      percent of the new base. (The town approved an $850,000 override in 2003.)


      -- How do I get an absentee ballot for the Special Election on January 25
      mailed to me?

      First, you must apply for an absentee ballot. You can pick up an absentee
      ballot application at the Town Clerk's Office, or you can download one at
      http://www.sec.state.ma.us/ele/eleifv/howabs.htm. Depending on your
      circumstances, check either the box labeled "an election" (and write in
      "January 25, 2005" below the box) or the box labeled "all elections this
      year" (and write in "2005") in Item 1 of the application. Fold and seal the
      application as indicated on the back, and mail it to the Town Clerk in
      Wayland. You can mail it immediately.

      Thanks again for your interest. To be sure your vote will mean something,
      please urge at least 10 friends to stay informed and vote on Jan. 25.
      Share this newsletter and urge anyone who does not receive it to email
      waylandvoters@... to be added to the listserv, or to call Michael at
      508-358-2365 to receive WVN by U.S. mail.


      Wayland Voters Network
      Margo Melnicove, Chair
      Michael Short, Treasurer
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