Thanks to all these supporters who have written to the Advocate to express their views
- Three-year override plan controls costs, Dan Dunn
- Override would protect business, Kirsi Allison-Ampe
- Not Good Enough, Kathryn Gondek-Tighe
- Why I’ve decided to vote Yes, Carl Wagner
- Support Our Town Employees, Colleen Kirby
- Vote yes to keep our community strong for all, Dana Cooperson
- Support Our Libraries; Vote Yes on the June 7 Override, Adam Pachter
- Five Years of School Cuts will Have Lasting Damage, Maria Ruiz
- Facing Budget Realities, Scott and Heather Smith, Avon Place
- Override support, Louise B. Popkin, Cliff Street
- From a grandparent, taxpayer and former teacher, Bill Hayner, Putnam Road
- Invest in Arlington’s future, Don Vieweg, Shawnee Road
- Town Management is Good, Carl Elkin
- It’s Up to Us, Amy Speare, Ridge Street
- Keep Our Streets Safe; Support the Override, Deborah Miller
- In Support of Excellence, Roland Chaput, Precinct 12
Three-year override plan controls costs
Six years ago, I voted against the 5-year plan and the tax override. Over the course of the ensuing 6 years, I realized that I was wrong. This time around, I understand the town’s finances much better, and I’m a strong supporter of the tax override and the three-year plan. What made me change me mind?
First, I didn’t think the town was going to be able to work within the spending restrictions of the five-year plan . As a member of the Finance Committee, I got a front-row seat to the implementation of the five-year plan. I watched the Town Manager and other town leaders make a series of hard choices that kept us on track. Over the years, I came to realize that I was wrong – the town can keep its promises.
With that front row seat, I also came to appreciate how the multi-year plan saves us money in the long run. Because we had a stable budget, we were able to do things like hire a cost-recovery specialist for health insurance. That position ended up paying for itself and saves the town money. We were able to consolidate the IT department – some up-front costs, but real long-term savings. Decisions like these are much easier to make in a stable budget – and they’re almost impossible if you’re on an annual roller coaster of cuts and put-backs.
The second reason I was against the last override was that I thought the override was too large. Again, I learned that I was wrong from my seat on Finance Committee. This three-year plan has a similar structure to the last override. Of the $6.5 million, $2.6 million goes into the bank for future years of the plan. $2.9 million of it goes to maintaining a level-service budget so the town and schools can provide the same services next year that we have this year. $600,000 of it goes towards re-instating some school programs that have been cut in the past. $400,000 goes into our DPW budget so that we can catch up on deferred road maintenance.
But the three-year plan is not just an override. It’s also about controlling costs. In addition to the override, the three-year plan includes $1 million in health insurance savings in FY12, and another $1 million in savings in FY13. That’s a $2 million permanent cut to our base budget – a permanent savings we will enjoy going forwards. Additionally, the plan includes strict limits for increases in salaries, expenses, special education, and health insurance. These restrictions will keep the town on a frugal and cost-conscious path.
I’m delighted with the recent agreement between the town and the teachers’ union. That agreement is the foundation for the savings we need in health insurance over the next few years. We will need more savings in FY13, but this agreement gets us on the right track. The cost of health insurance remains one of the biggest pressures on our budget, and we must find a way to control it.
We can’t balance our budget with just an override, and we can’t balance our budget just by cutting health insurance costs. We need both efforts.
What do we get with this override and these savings? The list is too long to list here. The short answer is: we get an Arlington that resembles our current Arlington. We get support for seniors, support for youth services, roads that are clear of snow and maintained in the summer, police and fire protection, and schools that we can be proud of. The list of specific changes can be found at http://www.yesforarlington.org/faq/townservices/.
As a community, we get to decide what kind of town we want. On June 7th we can vote for the override, maintain town services and proactively manage our finances. Or we can vote the override down and learn to live with the cuts that will result. What kind of community do you want?
It is for us to decide.
Override would protect business
On May 2nd, the Finance Committee voted in favor of the proposed override. During the discussion, a FinComm member asked: What is the town and the Board of Selectmen doing to improve Economic Development?
I’ve been thinking about this a lot. My answer: to improve Economic Development in Arlington, all five Selectmen are supporting the override. By preserving town services and quality schools, we give Arlington the best chance for a stronger financial future.
What is current new development? The assessor’s office states FY2011 had $54.2 million in new growth (=new or improved buildings) bringing an additional $657,000 in property taxes. But there is no detailed list, so I set out to do my own research.
Driving along Mass Ave, new businesses include Comella’s restaurant, the Orange Hanger (clothing), the Meat House (meat), Gymboree (kids playspace and classes), Unleashed (pets). CVS built an entire new building in 2010, assessed at $4.8 million. Over on Summer Street the Little Red Barn is becoming Fresh Pond Seafood. At the same time, our community continues to support the many small businesses that dot Arlington. Cutting town services would make us a less desirable destination for new or established businesses.
What about the housing market? Up on Turkey Hill, there are a number of homes that have been rebuilt, with new assessments of $500,000 to $600,000++. Across town, near the Park Circle water tower, there are homes which have been torn down and rebuilt, now assessed at >$800,000 and >$900,000. Another home has an addition valued at $125,000. In East Arlington, single family homes are rebuilt as 2-unit townhomes–with asking prices of over $500,000 per unit. These homes are all part of the $36.4 million residential share of new growth (67% of all new growth), bringing about $441,000 in new taxes in FY11.
The stability Arlington has seen in home prices during this economic downturn has been remarkable, and very atypical nationwide. Much of the credit goes to our dynamic schools and strong level of town services.
Surely it is in all our best interest to maintain the things that make this town appealing to current residents, future residents, businesses, and developers. If we do not feel it is worth investing in our community, how can we expect others to do so?
Please vote Yes on June 7th, to keep Arlington a place for residents-and businesses-to thrive.
Not good enough
A letter writer wrote two weeks ago that voting “no” on the override is the only way to force officials to be accountable and put our town on a path to fiscal health. Unfortunately, it isn’t that easy.
State aid to Arlington has been cut drastically by the Legislature, especially since the economic downturn. Arlington relies heavily on that aid since we do not have a large business tax base. The town economized by outsourcing work, joining regional consortiums and consolidating services.
The town also made significant cuts in services. DPW staff is down two-thirds since 1990. Minimum manning on the fire department decreased from 21 in the 1980s to only 14. Last year, 32 teachers were lost. Arlington learned to make do with less through hard work and creativity.
Proposition 2 ½ doesn’t mean that the town is a failure if it can’t live with 2.5 percent growth. Proposition 2 ½ means that we – the voters and the taxpayers – get to say when we think it isn’t enough.
I think it isn’t enough.
Crime was up 20 percent last year and violent crime up 30 percent. A police department that can only react to crimes that have already happened because it doesn’t have enough officers to be proactive isn’t good enough.
Losing another 60-70 school staff, most of them teachers, means students’ will be forced into study halls because there aren’t enough teachers to offer enough classes. This isn’t good enough.
A library that is only open three nights a week and has to repeatedly apply for a waiver to stay in the Minuteman Network isn’t good enough.
Losing the social worker who helps seniors find fuel assistance, health care and housing isn’t good enough.
Parents paying to line sports fields because the town can’t afford to isn’t good enough.
Removing the only ladder truck from the fire department because there aren’t enough firefighters to man it isn’t good enough.
Arlington doesn’t need an override because it’s poorly managed or its citizens want unreasonable things. Arlington needs an override because budgets have been trimmed until the only cuts left are painful ones. Voting “no” will set Arlington on a path to becoming a fiscally unhealthy town that cannot support its citizens. No one – not the state, the federal government or some large corporation – is going to change that. We are the only people who can help the town. Please vote “yes” for the override on June 7.
Why I’ve decided to vote Yes
As a Town Meeting Member from Precinct 11, I urge you to give your support and vote YES on June 7 to save the town you know and care for. Here’s why I’ve decided to vote and to say yes:
When you send your money off to Uncle Sam or to Beacon Hill, it’s sometimes hard to see the benefit come back to you. However, when you or your landlord pays property taxes to the town you live in, that money comes clearly back to you — almost immediately. Renters and owners alike watch over the town via Town Meeting and its volunteer Finance Committee (and encourage you to join us). The result is that this town is not ‘spending wildly.’ Arlington services are actually a bargain compared to towns around us, in terms of the safety and education provided and is still an attractive place to move to.
This override will essentially give us a ‘proposition 3 ½’ for a few years. It represents $40 per month more or about $450 annually for the average home. While that extra bit – about 1 percent more at tax time hurts, until we can somehow convince Washington or Boston to pay us what they used to, we citizens need to come to the aid of each other.
Argue about US and MA taxes and do get involved in the budget making process in town, but please look at your town taxes as your best chance to maintain your quality of life and that of your neighbors on your immediate street. They need you to help fill a hole not caused by spending but by lack of government funding and the bad economy. If you must, consider it charity — it’s the right thing to do to fund your and our quality of life when the economy and bigger governments have let us down.
Support Our Town Employees
On May 19th, the teacher’s union in town agreed to their new contract which will save the town about $1.3 M assuming the rest of the unions sign on. This is likely as the teacher’s union is by far the largest in town. Town employees are increasing their share of health care costs and have elected to forgo raises for the past 2 years. I am heartened that the teachers voted to retain jobs rather than higher benefit coverage.
Unfortunately $1.3M will only cover 1/4 of our deficit. This is why I am supporting the June 7th override so we can keep as many of our dedicated town employees, many of whom live in Arlington, in their jobs during this greatest recessionary time in my life. I know how difficult it will be for any teacher, firefighter, police or public works employee to find a new job with unemployment currently at such a high level. Besides I only hear people wanting more services from our dedicated Arlington employees; they want faster snowplowing, prompt tree care, rapid permitting, quicker pot hole repair, more extensive crime prevention and graffiti removal, access to the Minuteman LIbrary Network, smaller class sizes, more dedicated programs for kids who need extra help and better schools. Every employee I have ever met in Arlington has been dedicated and we have the statistics that prove the efficiency of our local government compared to other towns.
We can be proud of all that our employees do in town and I think we need to show our support by voting to keep as many of these dedicated public servants in their jobs as we can by voting Yes on June 7th.
Vote yes to keep our community strong for all
Over the years I’ve lived here, my love and appreciation for Arlington have grown. My family visits the library regularly and uses the inter-library loan system extensively. Our kids play soccer on fields all over town. We frequent the town’s beautiful parks. We enjoy many community events: concerts, art shows, musicals, science fairs, and so on.
As our town’s revenue situation has deteriorated, what makes our community so special, strong, and safe is increasingly at risk. Twenty years here, including nine with school kids and two spent educating myself about town finances, have convinced me that our town employees are competent and hard-working and manage our money wisely. We enjoy wonderful schools and a beautiful town, and yet of twenty comparable local communities, Arlington ranks seventeenth in both total spending and school spending per resident. There’s no fat left to cut; we can only cut bone.
In a time of greater need, we’ll cut elderly, youth counseling, and health inspection services. Does that reflect how our community values our old and young citizens and our public health?
In a time of rising crime, we’ll lose two police officers despite already having the area’s lowest staffing level per capita. Does that reflect how our community values safe streets and proactive policing?
In a time when a record 1000 people use our libraries each day to find a job, feed or find a passion, or simply borrow a book, we’ll lose vital hours and staff that could jeopardize our state certification and our ability to borrow from other local libraries. Does that reflect how our community values our libraries?
In a time of increasing global competition, we’ll cut essential classroom teachers from our schools, which among many other repercussions will force AHS to reduce graduation requirements. Does that reflect how our community values educating our children?
Finally, we’ll reduce the ability of our fire department to respond effectively and cut Public Works’ capacity, already down by two-thirds since 1990, to repair roads and sidewalks, remove snow, trim trees, maintain parks and cemeteries, and perform other indispensible duties. Does that reflect how our community values our town’s safety and infrastructure?
If you, like me, don’t think these cuts to fundamental town services reflect our community values, please join me Tuesday June 7 and vote yes to preserve a strong Arlington for all.
Support Our Libraries; Vote Yes on the June 7 Override
As I write this, my wife and two young daughters are at the Robbins library, enjoying all its treasures on another beautiful Sunday afternoon. My wife is probably looking through the books on tape, finding another great novel to get her through the daily commute to Boston University. My oldest daughter, a 1st grader at the Brackett, will soon be eagerly scanning the books in the children’s room, likely locating another Amelia Bedelia offering to read for homework this week. And my youngest daughter, still in preschool, is no doubt romping with the stuffed animals in the children’s play area, eagerly putting a puzzle together, or perhaps listening to my wife read a Dr. Seuss story. Before leaving they will undoubtedly climb the red carpet steps up to the golden dome, where my kids will race around the railing and gaze eagerly down on the patrons below. It’s just another beautiful spring afternoon, and the Robbins library is serving Arlington well.
Even before my wife and I moved here, we benefited from the Robbins; in fact, I would frequently escape our cramped Davis Square apartment to work on my latest novel in the computer room. In the years since we made Arlington our home, I’ve given talks at the Robbins, done research on its computers and in its stacks, signed copies of my Red Sox books, and taken my kids to story time there and at the Fox. And my family is hardly alone; in fact, the library had nearly 320,000 visits in Fiscal Year 2010.
But even as the Fox and Robbins continue to support all of Arlington’s citizens so well, they face drastic cuts that would force the Robbins to close early one more night a week, result in staff layoffs, slash the book buying budget, and threaten our ability to borrow from other libraries in the Minuteman Library Network. We can’t let that happen; our libraries are too important, too much a part and parcel of what make Arlington such a special town. And so preserving the exceptional level of service that the Robbins and Fox libraries provide is just one of the many reasons I will be voting yes on the June 7 override. Please join me.
Five Years of School Cuts will Have Lasting Damage
A key reason my husband and I picked Arlington to raise our family five years ago was because of the great reputation of the Arlington schools. Our daughter will be entering kindergarten in September, but the school system we counted on has suffered the cumulative effects of several years of budget cuts, and FY12 may be the most severe yet. Classroom teachers, specialists, and funds for materials and technology will all be slashed – unless we vote to pass an override on June 7.
I wanted to talk to someone who has been involved with the schools and was a respected voice in the community. The name I kept hearing, Principal Alan Brown of the Stratton Elementary School, is retiring this June after more than four decades in the Arlington school system.
I asked him about his biggest concerns regarding the proposed budget cuts. Without hesitation he said the increasing average class size and losing “specials.” Elementary schools have already cut physical educations down from twice weekly to once a week, and this is a real problem for active young children. For many students, knowing the day is a gym day or a music day adds to their excitement about school. “Specials” are not only important to the kids, they also allow teachers common planning time to work collaboratively across grade levels.
Another concern of Principal Brown’s is keeping up with teaching materials and technology. The schools currently rely upon the PTOs to raise money for these needs. And while the PTOs are coming through, it opens the door for lack of equity among schools. Brown also said there is a point where five years of cuts will do lasting damage, and we are approaching that point.
Brown said that despite grappling with frustrating budget issues for years, Arlington’s teachers and staff still bring energy, creativity and optimism to the classrooms. Our town has a sound district program. We win state and national awards, and these achievements are a salute to the Arlington district as a whole. I asked Brown what makes him most proud, and he said that nothing is more uplifting for him than to walk into a classroom without the mantle of principal on him, and to listen to the conversations of the students and the work going on. It reaffirms for him that teachers are recognizing the individual students and helping them find their own paths. This affirmation happens for him countless times in countless rooms every day.
I left the conversation feeling very good about the great work being done in the Arlington schools, and I took comfort in the town’s philosophy. Nevertheless, it’s clear to me that the cuts proposed for FY12 would be very damaging to our schools. That’s why I will be voting yes in the June 7 override.
The quality of the town’s school system is a critical consideration for most young families when they are considering where to live. But whether you have children in the school system or not, you’ll want to consider the broader consequences of a No vote, as many important town services will be cut. None of us wants our home values to decrease. But make no mistake, if the quality of our schools decreases, so will the value of our homes.
Principal Brown ended his conversation with me with a story. A first grader recently gathered up the courage to ask him why he was leaving and told him she didn’t want him to go. He told her he has heard a lot of nice things said about him, but that really touched his heart. I have to say, after speaking with Principal Brown and understanding the good work being done in our schools, his words touched my heart too. And these words have made me even more certain that in order to preserve Arlington’s strong school system, we need to pass the override on June 7. Please join me in voting yes.
Facing Budget Realities
Regarding the property tax override scheduled for June 7, it is easy for Arlingtonians to mistakenly conclude that the town is not managing its finances well. If one thinks about the situation a bit more deeply, a different conclusion is apparent. Recall that Proposition 2 1/2 got its name because it mandates that the total amount of tax that can be raised from the existing tax base (i.e., existing homes and businesses) may not be increased by more than 2.5% year-to-year. It is important to understand that this is not an inflation-adjusted number. Therefore, assuming inflation runs at approximately this amount on average, property taxes stay effectively the same in real dollars. And this sounds pretty reasonable, as it protects homeowners and businesses from being bankrupted by big-spending or inefficient local governments.
Unfortunately, the sorts of things that municipal governments spend most of their money on are not the same sorts of things that you and I spend most of our money on, and these things (heath care, contractual pensions contributions, state-mandated special education programs among others) do not conform to the overall inflation rate, which for the last 10 or 20 years has tracked pretty close the 2.5% number. The cost of these programs to the town is not something that the town can control directly, and this is the root of the problem.
Until our state and national leaders can wrestle these larger costs into conformance with the overall inflation rate, municipal governments and the residents of our towns and cities will be forced to make occasional adjustments to our baseline tax rates to make up for this discrepancy. The alternative is streets with too few police, schools with too few teachers, and homeowners with falling property values.
The solution, it seems to these homeowners, is to push for state and national policies that will make structural changes to decrease heath care inflation, and work with the state to enact policies that will dampen the increase in other mandated costs. These changes will not happen overnight. In the meantime, it’s important to understand this override as a great investment in our kids, our seniors, our quality of life, and our property values. This is not something that we should impose upon our fellow citizens lightly. But it’s clear to us that voting against it would be cutting off our noses to spite our faces.
Scott and Heather Smith
On June 7, Arlington’s voters will be asked to support a $6.5 million override, to head off drastic cuts in vital town and school services. Since many of us are legitimately concerned about the potential effect of the override on our budgets, let’s look at the numbers. The median value of a house in Arlington is about $480,000. What the override would cost the owner of such a property ($.94 cents per $1000 of value) is about $450, which equals $37 a month or about $1.25 a day.
Speaking for myself, if my budget were tight and I had to make cuts elsewhere, I could easily find that money by doing a few of the following things each month (several of which could be done with friends and neighbors who would be reallocating similar amounts of their money):
1) having coffee at home once in a while instead of heading for Starbucks
2) eating at home once when I would otherwise have gone to a restaurant
3) renting a video once or twice when I might have gone to the movies
4) checking a book I’ll only read once out of the library, instead of buying it
5) doing without an occasional piece of clothing I like, but really don’t need
6) taking the bus once in a while, rather than Amtrak, for long distance travel
I wouldn’t be sacrificing anything substantial, and I certainly wouldn’t be trading a life of comfort for one of deprivation. Personally, I’d much prefer making small adjustments like that to watching Arlington go downhill for lack of services.
Louise B. Popkin
From a grandparent, taxpayer and former teacher
I am writing this letter as a grand-parent, taxpayer, retired teacher, Town Meeting member and recently elected School Committee member.
I have spent my career as an educator and know the value of class size. I know that the more time spent responding to children, one-on-one, the faster children learn. Think about your own children and the quality time spent with them and how quickly they learn.
There are programs in place that have been successful in getting students to pass the MCAS testing at the High School who previously struggled. These students will graduate after achieving the necessary academic scores.
Our schools like many of the Town Services have been stripped to the bone. The only thing left to cut is front line staff. The Schools have seen $7 million cut from its budgets over the past 6 years.
The override is not asking to lower the class size. It is only asking that we keep them where they are and believe me the class sizes are nowhere near the optimum level. But at least we can prevent them from getting so big they jeopardize our students’ education.
My wife and I are on a fixed income like many of you. But we understand that the high value of our property is directly related to the quality of our schools.
It is difficult to come to you and say give us more money; you have a right to expect accountability in return. It has not always been forth coming in the past, and that’s one of the reasons why I ran for School Committee. But things are getting better; we on the School Committee have heard your voices and we are committed to an open, accountable budget process. I have also seen a wonderful thing at Town Meeting this year. Members are asking more and more questions of their elected officials. Believe me when I say that I would not support this override if I didn’t think it was absolutely necessary.
Please vote YES on June 7.
Invest in Arlington’s future
Gracing a wall in our home is a framed reproduction of a description of the town of Arlington written by the Rev. Elias Nason, M.A., in 1873. One line in particular stands out in my mind. After citing the town’s total valuation at the time, it states, “the rate of taxation, $1.35 per $100”.
One hundred and thirty eight years later, when I consult our FY2011 tax bill, I noticed that the rate of taxation is $12.41 per $1000, or $1.24 per $100 in terms relative to 1873. So, in absolute numbers, our town tax rate is actually lower than it was close to a hundred and forty years ago.
Being someone who took care of aging parents over the last decade, I took responsibility for their affairs in Rhode Island. One thing I discovered was that their annual property taxes were higher than our property taxes for our home in Arlington. Their home was also assessed at about 45% less than our home. As a relative rate of measure, their tax rate was substantially higher than ours is.
These two anecdotes showcase how our present day Arlington taxes are low as a relative measure. The town cannot raise our property taxes by more than the 2 ½ percent allowed annually by law. We face costs that rise annually by more than revenues can be raised. There will be drastic service cuts if we don’t ask our town’s voters to approve a tax override.
We have a thriving community, effective town services, parks, libraries and we have a high quality of life. Maintaining high quality of any type requires investment.
To keep our home values up, we maintain them. To keep our cars running and safe, we maintain them. These items are worth investing in. We maintain what’s important to us and we invest in things we expect to appreciate over time. To not maintain the important things in our lives always results in a loss. To not invest in things means there’s no possibility to realize gains.
This three-year property tax override proposal asks us to invest in our town for the next three years. This is a type of investment that works in our own best interest. I urge you to go to the polls and vote Yes for Arlington on June 7th.
It’s Up to Us
Many people assume that if the town needs to ask us for another override, they have mismanaged our money. This is untrue. Property 2 ½, voted into law in 1980, was designed to hold municipalities fiscally responsible and limit their ability to increase property taxes over 2 ½ % annually. This model was fine in 1980 – and even for the 20 years after that – as long as the town’s other revenue sources (e.g. state and federal aid) were held equal. It is simple economics: our expenses (many of them out of our control) have increased more than 2 ½% while our funding has decreased at a much greater rate.
Since 2002, Arlington’s state aid has declined 16.8%, while state aid for all municipalities has increased 9.1%. Since 1988, Arlington has seen its share of the local aid ‘pie’ cut in half. At the same time, our overall population has increased slightly and our student enrollment has steadily increased 2% annually, thus requiring us to do more with less.
We are a victim of our own success, because the state funding formula assumes that communities with relatively high median income levels and high property values are assumed to have a greater ability to raise revenue locally. The problem is that the only source of revenue available to communities like Arlington – whose tax base is 96% residential – is the property tax. Currently, our tax rate is relatively low, at 1.24%. This is lower than comparable communities such as Natick, Weymouth, Medford and Woburn.
I enjoy the ‘bedroom’ community of Arlington. I am thankful that we do not have any strip malls or a Target. I love shopping at our local businesses and taking advantage of the diverse dining options. The consequence is that the residents are responsible for funding the town’s services.
Fighting for additional state aid is a separate, long battle that must be fought. Right now, it is up to us to ensure our community is safe. It is up to us to educate our children. It is up to us to preserve our property values. It is up to us to vote YES on June 7th.
Town Management is good
I am not religious, but the opening chapter of Genesis has always
moved me. God created this, and saw that it was good; he created that,
and saw that it was good.
He didn’t see that His Creation was perfect (it wasn’t). He didn’t see
that Creation had no problems (it did, and does). He just saw that it
This passage colors my understanding of the override debate,
especially regarding town management. Town management is good.
Arlington’s spending per resident is $2240, over 20% below the average
of 19 other area towns. Our school spending per resident is almost 25%
below the average of these towns.
Our total spending per resident is less than that of Lexington,
Wellesley, Norwood, Winchester, Needham, Brookline, Reading, Natick,
Belmont, Watertown, Woburn, Chelmsford, Milton, Salem, Stoneham, and
We spend slightly more than Melrose, Weymoth and Medford.
Is town government perfect? No. There are– as override opponents
never tire of reminding us– plenty of examples and anecdotes of
mismanagement and waste. This is not surprising. Any organization
large enough to have a $100m budget is going to have its share of
incompetent individuals, mismanagement and waste. Some have more than
their share. (And then, in its own special category, there is my cable
company.) Such waste can and should be identified and removed by
those inside the system (as many in town government are doing and have
done) and outside the system (as many vocal critics do– some more
politely than others).
Any organization large enough to have a $100m budget is also going to
have its share of outstanding individuals. Arlington has those, too–
firefighters who risk their lives, snowplow drivers who work heavy
equipment at 3 AM in snowstorms, teachers whose focus on their kids is
unrelenting no matter how much abuse they take from some quarters. We
don’t always hear so much about them in the debate over the override,
which is too bad– we really should.
Overall, here is the big picture: our town government spends less
money than most nearby towns. The services it delivers are good.
If the override fails, we will become an ultra-low spending community
which delivers poor services.
Its up to us to choose what type of community we want to live in. I
support the override because I strongly prefer the type of community
that we live in now.
Anyone can see that our town management is not perfect. But we should
recognize that it is good.
Keep Our Streets Safe; Support the Override
My family and I live on a steep hill near the Ottoson Middle School, a hill so steep that our little Corolla has trouble getting up it if there’s more than an inch or two of snow on the ground. But every morning I have to drive up that hill to take my oldest daughter to school at the Brackett Elementary, and then I have to keep going 8 miles to my job at Boston University. If the roads aren’t plowed, I can’t make it, and neither can she.
This past winter was rough; for about a month my husband, who works from home, couldn’t get our youngest daughter in her stroller up the hill; there were just too many unshoveled sidewalks. But even on the toughest days, the roads stayed clear. I know it’s easy to gripe about how narrow the streets got, and I sure didn’t like having to reshovel the entrance to our driveway after the plows pushed snow into it. But the plain and simple truth is that our DPW workers did a heck of a job under incredibly difficult conditions. The DPW staff has been reduced by two-thirds over the past 20 years, and they will lose another 9 positions if the override fails. That will directly affect safety on my street, and yours. I know the next snowstorm seems a long way off, but we have to be prepared when it comes. On June 7, please vote yes.
In Support of Excellence
I write to support the Prop 2 1/2 override for one specific reason – the loss of Excellence!
As a senior citizen in our town, I have given a lot of thought to the benefits and losses of this proposal and how I would find the additional funding to support the program. Like many of my fellow neighbors who exist on a fixed income, a plan to increase our monthly budget to cover the added taxes was not easy. To me it boiled down to the seldom mentioned issue of the quality of life in Arlington. My mind was made up after I witnessed an example of this quality a few weeks ago.
Arlington High School’s Annual Pop’s concert on April 30th convinced me we need to make that extra sacrifice in order to keep these special programs going. All of the students, whether they were in the jazz band, the orchestra or the Madrigal singers performed at a level that was truly inspiring. I am confident that many of them will continue on through their lives performing at that same level of excellence. It is gratifying to know that it was their musical education which began here in Arlington that will lead the way.
How does one achieve this goal? By hard work and quality training. Kudos go to the music teachers at the high school but also to both the middle school and the elementary levels. Their dedication to excellence was reflected in the two performances at the Spring concerts. For me, it must continue. I’m not naive enough to think that the music and arts programs will go away if the override does not pass. I do believe however, that they will be diminished and perhaps turn young people off because they won’t have the desire to work hard under the guidance of fewer qualified instructors.
I trust the voters of Arlington will agree with me and thoughtfully consider the potential loss of quality programs in our schools. Do as I do and resign to the fact that nothing comes free. Support the override and plan to make the sacrifice to achieve excellence!
Roland Chaput, Precinct 12