LETTER: 'I Question This Precedent-Breaking Process'
The town may have governed itself for 350 years by town meeting, but it has only had a zero quorum for a few years and all prior major infrastructure investments have been debt excluded and submitted to the ballot for final authorization. The public service building, library renovation, town hall renovation, middle school, new high school, Swallow Union addition, renovation of the old high school, sewer system in town center were all passed by town meeting with a debt exclusion and successfully submitted to the ballot. Why anyone would choose to suggest that my motivation for an amendment to exclude the debt for the firehouse was an attempt to be an obstructionist simply defies reason. No one ever suggested that these town meetings, which all had a quorum, were ever considered "advisory".
I am not sure why my amendment attempts would be considered "last minute" when I began a letter writing campaign before the FY 2014 budget was made public. A month and a half before the special town meeting I attempted to be chosen to the Town Meeting Study Committee and urged that all articles be presented in descending amount order and all bondable articles be debt excluded and, following passage at town meeting, be submitted to the ballot for passage. I sent letters to the Herald with copies sent to Town Manager so responses could be made in the same issue. I sent a copy of my town meeting presentation to Town Manager a week before town meeting. It was probably the first time an amendment has ever been presented to the public, via a letter to the editor, and to the Finance Committee where a vote was taken a week before town meeting. Readers can decide if this was a last minute, desperate act by an obstructionist.
When I first came to Massachusetts, in late 1970, cities, towns, school districts and the MBTA simply built their budgets and then tax rates were set to fund the budgets. Taxpayers successfully passed Prop 2 ½ which limits tax increases and therefore budgets for the above. This is why I have no problem with town meeting passing a $30 million budget. There are limitations as to how much the tax rate can be increased. In FY 2012 the school budget not only was not level funded, there was a 2% (two percent) decrease with level funding in FY 2013. This created a unique budgetary condition that allowed for at least one year of firehouse debt be funded under the levy limit. Choosing to do this broke at least 26 years of precedent to fund these large projects as debt excluded, ballot friendly.
I question this precedent-breaking process and my motivations are questioned? Curious.