The following letter to the editor appeared in the online edition of the Belmont Citizen Herald on March 11.
In the debate about whether to support an override, there is one thing I think everyone can agree upon: No one likes to see their taxes increase. However, I think the adage “you get what you pay for” also applies.
Objections to a tax increase generally revolve around two sets of arguments. The first proposes some efficiency that might be gained, or some other revenue source that might be tapped, to avoid budget cuts. The thrust of those arguments is essentially that if we just look hard enough, we can preserve essential services without a property tax increase. The second set of arguments recommend some collection of services — invariably ones that the proponent doesn’t personally use or value — that we could cut without much pain.
In my view, both arguments are off-base. Frankly, the first represents wishful thinking. There is no pot o’ gold just waiting to be discovered. Belmont has been operating under Prop 2 1/2 constraints for 40 years. If there was an untapped source of revenue, it undoubtedly would have been tapped long ago. Moreover, the magnitude of the proposed revenue enhancements in these types of arguments is generally very small relative to the size of the budget cuts that must be made. Bottom line, there is simply no realistic possibility of reducing the budget without cutting employees, and that inevitably means cuts to services we currently enjoy.
Regarding the second argument, it is unquestionably true that different residents will be impacted to different degrees by the budget cuts necessitated by a failed override. But, it is equally true that those required cuts will significantly impact some residents and will touch upon at least some aspect of everyone’s lives.
Personally, the impact of a failed override on my own life is probably relatively modest. My kids are out of school and aren’t involved in recreation programs; I haven’t set foot in the library recently; and, there have been no fires, medical emergencies, or break-ins at my home. Yet, I am supporting the override in recognition that the inevitable service cuts associated with a failed override will severely impact some families and will degrade the overall quality of life for the entire community.
I urge you to vote “yes” on April 6 to help preserve and enrich our collective quality of life.
Jack Weis, Warrant Committee member, Town Meeting member, Precinct 1, Chenery Terrace