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WVN # 46: Needs Versus Wants - What Can Wayland Afford To Do?

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    Wayland Voters Network November 13, 2004 Dear Wayland Voter, Notable Meetings Next Week: -Nov. 16 - Assessors Public Forum, 7 p.m. Town Bldg -The State of the
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 13, 2004
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      Wayland Voters Network

      November 13, 2004

      Dear Wayland Voter,

      Notable Meetings Next Week:
      -Nov. 16 - Assessors Public Forum, 7 p.m. Town Bldg
      -The State of the Town meeting held on Nov. 6 will be
      rebroadcast on local cable next Wed., Nov. 17, 7 p.m
      -Nov. 18 - HSBC - 7:30 p.m. Town Bldg, Final Report

      The following reports are based on notes by WVN subscriber
      Tom Sciacca

      State of Town, 11/6/04

      On the afternoon of Saturday, November 6, the Selectmen
      sponsored a "State of the Town" meeting at which a number of
      Town board representatives reported on the status of their
      departments, and then Moderator Peter Gossels led a public
      question and comment period. Approximately 60 people
      attended, although probably about half of them represented the
      boards who were reporting.

      Bob Lentz, chair of the Finance Committee, led off with a report of
      the Town's financial status. Because of the relatively poor
      economic conditions of the last few years versus earlier years,
      leading to less new construction and less money from the state,
      the Town shares the money problems being experienced by
      municipalities around the state and the nation. Some preliminary
      numbers for next year show $51.1 million in expected
      expenditures but only $48.6M million in revenues, leading to a
      shortfall. Town officials hope that part of this shortfall will be
      made up by a Proposition 2 and 1/2 override in April of at least
      $1M, which they hope voters will approve in April.

      The Finance Committee is struggling to find ways to minimize
      the override, but may run into conflicts with other Town boards.
      For example, the Fincom would like to transfer several hundred
      thousand dollars from the Water Department account
      established to fund future repairs and upgrades to the water
      supply system to the General Fund to help fund the shortfall.
      When Water Commission Chair Bob Duffy took the podium,
      however, he said that the Water Commissioners disagree and
      believe their accounts should be reserved for Water Department
      uses. As reported in an earlier WVN newsletter the School
      Committee is unhappy about complying with a Fincom request
      to reduce its budget, and Town Hall scuttlebutt has it that other
      departments do not seem too happy about similar requests put
      to them. Under Wayland's decentralized governmental structure
      most of these boards are independent and can only be forced to
      act by Town Meeting, so the upcoming budgeting season may
      prove contentious.

      Lentz offered several ideas for creative financing which he said
      may help. One is to do a complete inventory of town-owned land
      with an eye to potentially selling some, e.g. the Orchard Lane or
      Alpine Road school department-owned parcels which have
      never had schools on them and probably never will. He pointed
      to the Paine Estate model of selling off part of a parcel of land to
      preserve the rest as desirable. More commercial development
      may be useful in adding to the tax base without requiring much
      in the way of services. Finally, he pointed to the possibility of
      private funding to finance some desirable needs in town, though
      he acknowledged that he personally was unlikely to want to fund
      a "Lentz Memorial Salt Shed"; private funding is unlikely to be
      viable for many town needs.

      After his presentation Lentz left the building, and so was
      unavailable to respond to followup questions.

      Selectman Brian O'Herlihy amplified the land-use discussion,
      reporting that the Town is taking a comprehensive inventory of
      Town-owned land. The goal is not just to see what can be sold
      but what can be used more effectively. Town land is under the
      care and custody of specific boards and was originally acquired
      for specific purposes, but it may prove more efficient for land
      uses to be swapped around. As one possible example, perhaps
      the library (which is seeking to expand) should locate where the
      highway garage (also seeking to expand) is currently located,
      and vice versa.

      Much of the discussion during the public comment period
      focused on attracting development that would not require much
      in the way of costs to the town, most notably school costs (the
      schools comprise nearly 2/3rds of the Town budget, and the
      average single family house with two children in school is a net
      drain on the town finances). Suggestions included more
      commercial development, low bedroom count housing, senior
      housing, and very high end housing.

      Selectmen-Planning Board-Fincom Meeting 11/8/04

      The Selectmen met with the Planning Board and two
      representatives of the Finance Committee to discuss planning
      suggested by the Master Plan. This recently published Planning
      Board document lays out a number of new building proposals
      which in aggregate (and including the proposed $55-60M high
      school) would approach or exceed $100M. The Planning Board
      does not feel that prioritization or recommendations for or
      against these projects are within its charter. The Fincom is
      chartered to plan for capital projects for the next five years, but
      many Master Plan proposals clearly exceed a five year time
      horizon and the Fincom's capacity to deal with them. The idea of
      some sort of capital building planning committee was
      mentioned several times in the discussion.

      Two opposite philosophies of budgeting were exemplified in the
      comments of Chris Riley, Fincom member, and Selectmen
      Chair Betsy Connolly. Riley recommended a top down approach,
      whereby it is first determined from citizens what total tax burden
      the citizens are willing to bear and then the potential projects are
      prioritized to fit the determined total. "The first filter has to be the
      financial one. You don't go spend time studying and starting to
      draw plans and the like if it is not financially feasible", he said.
      "This is a very expensive wish list."

      Connolly advocated a bottoms-up approach, whereby the need
      for projects is first determined and then means are found to pay
      for them somehow. "People have to find a way to be creative",
      she said, citing examples of public-private partnerships to fund
      community facilities. The bottoms-up approach is the method
      used in planning for the new proposed high school, which
      Connolly has publicly supported in a recent Boston Globe article.
      In that article she was quoted as saying that Wayland "needs to
      have a physical plant that looks like it's one of the top five to 10
      schools in the state." In the case of the high school, however,
      which comprises more than half of the $100 million "wish list",
      no one has proposed any private or institutional funding source
      to relieve Wayland taxpayers.

      Executive Secretary Jeff Ritter was asked to research how other
      towns manage their capital planning, construction projects,
      facilities management, etc. as input to further discussion in a
      few weeks, potentially leading to formation of a new committee
      in an April Special Town Meeting within Annual Town Meeting.

      Concern was expressed by several members of the Planning
      board with respect to such a committee that it might be
      challenging to find volunteers to serve who would have an
      impartial view of the needs versus the wants of the whole town
      and not be burdened by an interest in any particular proposed
      project.

      Thank you for reading this WVN newsletter. Please forward it to
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      Wayland Voters Network
      Margo Melnicove, Chair
      Michael Short, Treasurer
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