More action here from Town Meeting. Phil Curtis of the Warrant Committee just gave a run-down on the state of the town’s budget. Long and short: 2009 will be bad, but a lot better for the federal stimulus money. 2010: worse, and 2011 and 2012 could be even worse, barring a big correction on Wall Street, an influx (unlikely) in state aid or new revenue. Now TM is being given the opportunity to ask questions. Question 1: Given that services will be cut, what will the cuts be on Town/School side. Tom Younger basically responded that many cuts to Town Services have already been made. Chairwoman Rittenburg from SC is saying that the hope is that stimulus funds will be used to restore around 14 full time positions.
Update: Long and rambling Q&A with Phil on the role of the Warrant Committee. It’s on the Web page – along with descriptions of the role/purpose of other town departments and committees. Check it out.
Don Mercier (fellow Precinct 8 TM member) gets the (moderator’s) hammer dropped on him by Mr. Widmer. Woot!
Update: TM torpedos effort to disband the Belmont Youth Commission and pass its responsibilities to the Rec Dept. Score one for Belmont Youth. Now we’re hung up on a rather technical question about whether or not School Committee and Board of Selectmen chairs can delegate to other members to represent the SC and BOS on the Warrant Committee. This is just straight forward enough for people to sink their teeth into…we almost go down the rabbit hole, but ultimately vote in favor of the change.
Paul here at Town Meeting. Things are just getting going — new members have been sworn in and Mr. Widmer, the Moderator, is reviewing the ground rules. There are a ton of issues to discuss — over 30. So many, in fact, that there’s some confusion over which order we’ll discuss them. One that caught my eye in the Warrant for the meeting, however, harkened back to one of the crazy ideas that B2 floated in 2008, namely: PILOT agreements. These are Payment in Lieu of Taxes agreements that towns can hammer out with large nonprofits. Belmont’s got a couple — both the McClean Hospital and the Belmont Hill School. PILOTs are not mandated and are at the discretion of non profits to agree to. Belmont has had PILOTs in the past with McLean in the past and has been mulling an agreement with Belmont Hill and the issue has been bubbling under the surface for a number of years, as Belmont Hill has quietly bought up homes and other property adjacent to its campus, taking those properties off the tax roles. Now the fiscal crisis has brought it into the forefront and tonight Town Meeting will vote on a decree calling on Belmont Hill School to negotiate with the town on a PILOT agreement to repay Belmont for the maintenance of streets infrastructure around the school, as well as for property taken off the town’s tax roles. Stay tuned.
Hey. Just a shout out to the Blogging Belmont community about an important happening next Saturday, May 2nd. Together for Wellington, the group that’s working to get a debt exclusion passed for the construction of a new Wellington Elementary school is conducting a town wide canvas and voter education drive to raise awareness about the upcoming, June 8 special election.
If you’re interested, Together for Wellington is looking for volunteers who can spare an hour or two next Saturday to take part in the canvas — going door to door and talking to your neighbors about the need to build a new Wellington. Kids are very welcome, and you’ll be provided with everything you need to do the job.
If you’re a B2 reader and interested in coming out next Saturday, contact me at paul (at) bloggingbelmont.com or call: 617 817 0198. I’ll get you hooked up with the person who’s coordinating canvassing in your part of town. If you’d like to help get a new Wellington built but aren’t available on May 2, e-mail volunteer (at) togetherforwellington.com and let them know when you’re available to help and what types of activities you’re interested in. There will be plenty to do between now and election day.
As the Belmont Citizen Herald is reporting, an influx of Federal stimulus dollars targeted at education will allow the town to put off asking voters to approve a Proposition 2 1/2 override to fix its budget deficit. An estimated $1.3m in stimulus money will help stave off cuts to staffing and materials on the school side and, coupled with some savings from attrition, let the town squeak by for one more year without needing to raise property taxes. Of course, because this is a structural deficit, Belmont is likely to face a similar or even larger deficit next year, barring a miraculous recovery in the second half of 2009, as tax revenues continue to decline.
BloggingBelmont says "thanks, Barack!"
Still, the decision for hold off on the override vote saves town voters from a ballot in June asking for approval of property tax increases for the budget as well as construction of the new Wellington Elementary — a scenario that few in town thought boded well for either effort.
Details should be emerging in the weeks ahead on exactly where cuts will come from on both the School and Town side of the ledger, but as a strong supporter of the effort to build a new Wellington, a June vote focused on that issue and no other is very appealing. I’m sure I’m not alone in the desire to step back and say “Thanks, Barack!” 😉