WVN #56: Wayland's Budget and Who Pays for It
- Wayland Voters Network
December 30, 2004
Dear Wayland Voter,
We want to share a column published in the Town Crier earlier this
month, written by Wayland resident Mike Patterson. It provides some
food for thought during this time of both reflection and
anticipation. We also want to wish you good health and much
happiness in 2005.
WAYLAND'S BUDGET AND WHO PAYS FOR IT
In forthcoming elections and town meetings Wayland voters will be
asked to approve a budget that has experienced enormous growth in
recent years. The total budget for FY 1996 was $26.8 million. In FY
2004 the budget grew to $46.5 million, an increase of 74%. The
finance committee now reports that the operating budget request for
next year will be $48.6 million, an 81% increase since FY 1996. This
amount excludes any capital expenditures; however, it does assume a
Proposition 2 1/2 override of $1.5 million.
During this period, inflation (as measured by the Consumer Price
Index) averaged only 2.32% per year, yet our budget went up 81%.
Wayland's population remained virtually unchanged at approximately
Who is going to fund this $48.1 million? Wayland presently receives
only 12 % of its budget from the State. The rest of our budget is
funded through local property taxes and automobile excise taxes.
Here is some demographic information about Wayland residents that you
may want to consider as you decide on priorities for the town budget:
- Wayland households have a median income of $101,000.
(Weston, in contrast, has a median household income of $154,000, and
Sudbury's median household income is $119,000.)
- In Wayland, 22% of the households have an annual income of $49,999
- And 9.4 % of Wayland's households live on a total income of $24,999
Think for a moment, could you live in Wayland on $24,000 or even
It is also of note that although 22% of Wayland families have an
annual income of $49,999 or less, another 24% have incomes of
$200,000 or more.
A significant number of property owners in Wayland are on a fixed
income, and many are older residents. In the U.S., 12% of the
population is age 65 or older. Wayland is slightly older than the
rest of the nation with 14% age 65 or older. Many of these Wayland
property owners purchased their homes thirty or forty years ago at
comparatively low prices. Over the years property values have
escalated sharply. Their homes may currently be worth twenty or
thirty times the original purchase price and have a tax bill to
match. The income of these property owners, however, may not have
An unsympathetic and disturbing comment we often hear is "If they
don't like it in Wayland, they can move." This view is troubling for
two reasons. First, the older residents are the people who helped
build the fabric of our town. They volunteered in the schools, led
girl scout troops, coached youth teams, served on town committees and
boards. They are the citizens who helped develop the strong school
system that is now a cornerstone of our community. The suggestion
that they leave ignores all the contributions they have made --
contributions the rest of us currently enjoy.
Second, if these residents sell their relatively modest homes, many
of the homes will be purchased by young families with children.
This, in turn, will increase the burden on our already overloaded
The issue here is not the school budget or the capital budget, or any
individual budget item. The issue is the total Wayland budget. It
is crucial that Wayland voters, including town officials, give
careful thought to each aspect of the proposed budget. Just because
an item is requested doesn't mean it is justified or that the town
can, or should pay for it. Every voter needs to look at the big
picture - the total picture - and then consider how each proposed
budget item will contribute to the economic well being of our town.
Is each item truly necessary? Is it an expenditure that everyone,
wealthy or otherwise, should shoulder?
Claypit Hill Road
Michael Patterson has served on numerous Wayland commissions and
committees. He has been Commissioner of Trust Funds since 1987.
This column was originally published on December 9, 2004, and is
reprinted with permission of the Wayland Town Crier and the author.
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Wayland Voters Network
Margo Melnicove, Chair
Michael Short, Treasurer