The following GuestCommentary was published in the Belmont Citizen Herald online February 5, 2021 and is also in the February 4 print edition.
My three children — now in their late 20s and 30s — are products of the Belmont Public School System. K-12’ers. Lifers. They played on little league, soccer, BYBA basketball, football and field hockey teams. One of them played an instrument in the orchestra, maybe not well but she persevered, nevertheless. (Please don’t tell her I said this.) To this day my kids count among their closest friends other Belmont kids. The school district did well by my children. They each received a terrific education.
Belmont is a great place to raise a family. Though close to Cambridge and Boston, Belmont has a small-town feel. It’s small enough to be walkable. When my kids were school-age, I loved being in the Center or Cushing Square and catching sight of their friends. And I knew I could count on the parents of those friends keeping an eye out for my children.
I want the children currently in school here to have the same chance for a quality education and all the experiences that lay a solid foundation for adulthood. But there’s a real danger of that not being possible if we voters don’t support the override in April.
I am relieved that the Select Board is putting an override question to Belmont voters. Town leaders and department heads stretched out the funds generated by the 2015 override for several years longer than citizens had the right to expect. Now it’s time to catch-up with covering expenses. Either that, or Belmont becomes a town none of us will recognize.
I am a former School Committee member and current member for the last decade or so of the Capital Budget Committee. I was the latter’s representative to Financial Task Force II. Over the last two plus years, the FTFII did a deep, rigorous dive, with early help from the Collins Center, into Belmont’s financial needs. Led by FTFII members Geoff Lubien and Mark Paolillo with the very able assistance of Town Administrator Patrice Garvin, the financial model the task force developed is solid work upon which the town can rely now and in future to project revenues and expenses.
The model tells us we are facing a fiscal cliff. Our expenses are outpacing revenues. Both the town and schools have increasingly complex needs that must be addressed. The Council on Aging needs a social worker and has for some time. Our new or newly renovated buildings have sophisticated management systems that need expert tending to maintain our capital investments. We bemoan our small commercial base and want to see more. Belmont needs professionals to ensure smart growth, consistent with our values. This all costs money.
My day job was working with children in Middlesex County who were court-involved. Some of these kids came from communities much like Belmont and had complicated mental and physical health problems. School was frequently the place where their problems played out and where they received help. Right or wrong, schools serve on the front-line to provide or obtain help for children suffering from serious mental and emotional health conditions.
And we have many more children to educate. Unlike many of our peer communities, Belmont has seen an explosion in its school-age population. This benefits property values but squeezes our teachers and school administrators to the breaking point. Current class sizes are larger than any of my kids experienced.
These are hard times for many people. Paying more in real estate tax will be really tough for some. But now is the time to step up and support this absolutely necessary override. We still want and need our trash and recyclables collected, our roads repaved, our sidewalks repaired, our commercial districts to thrive, our library to lend us books, our roads plowed and our school children educated. All this costs money. Real estate taxes are an investment in our quality of life, our property values, our seniors and our school children. So please join me in voting “yes” for the override in April.
– Becky Vose, Clark Street