WVN #45: Welcome and Thank You
- 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
"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
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
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
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
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
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