The following Letter to the Editor appeared in the online and print editions of the Belmont Citizen Herald on March 25, 2021.
The April 6 override vote will address critical town budget issues and allow us to “move the ball forward” — it will not solve everything, but it will take an important step.
No one wants to “pay more” in taxes, but we effectively “defer” taxes each year with our inherent structural operating deficit. Thus, every few years, we have to “catch up.” Due to some great efforts over several months, Belmont enjoyed nearly six years from the last override.
A “yes” vote will backstop critical programs and services across the board — your community center, your roads, your schools, your library, your playgrounds/parks, your safety, etc. If the measure fails, nearly every department will face significant more cuts, into the meat of vital staff and programs. Even with my limited involvements, I observe town leadership (many volunteers and very capable professionals) juggling many priorities, and addressing considerable challenges long in the making. COVID-19 costs exacerbated these challenges. Let’s not reverse the great strides made over the past three to five years, and instead, let’s continue our steady progress plotting out a stable long-term financial strategy.
Capped by Prop 2 1/2 and virtually no commercial development opportunities, Belmont runs very lean for the most part; there are no “excessive” salaries or OT paid out, we seek to hire highly competent teachers and staff, and we rely heavily on huge commitments of volunteer time. Just to name a few of the very positive activities: solving the DPW/PD facilities dilemma, winning significant grants won since Patrice Garvin’s arrival, and super analysis and planning by our Long-term Financial Task Force II each have provided savings and discipline. On top of that, we enjoyed very smooth and effective administration and town clerk operations despite COVID-19.
I fully appreciate that any tax increase hits many families, younger and older, hard, but we cannot just “stop” investing in our town services, programs and facilities. Finally, for those who need the help, some relief is available based on household income, a recent increase in credit for volunteer hours, as well as a vastly lowered interest rate should someone elect to defer their real estate taxes until the sale of their home. I hope you will ask someone knowledgeable about those measures, if you have the need.
– Lawrence J. Link, Orchard Street