Monday, May 31, 2010

It's just the beginning!

A look back at the history of Proposition 2½ overrides (both operational and debt exclusion) in the town of Longmeadow showed the following results.

[click to enlarge chart for easier reading]

To summarize the above results...

  1. There have been 5 successful Prop. 2½ debt exclusion overrides (for school capital improvement projects) during the past 16 years for a total of $35.7 million. None were rejected.
  2. There have been 3 successful Prop. 2½ operational overrides during the past 20 years averaging $2.2 million or 1 every 6-7 years. There were 3 unsuccessful overrides during this same time period.
  3. The last successful Prop. 2½ override in November 2007 passed by a margin of 6 votes!

The debt exclusion override for the Longmeadow High School project that will decided on June 8 is for $44.1 million which is equivalent to an operational override of ~$3.2 million.

Here is what concerns me...

It is very likely we will need an operational override in FY2013 (if not next year) to pay for rapidly escalating costs and a new teachers contract (FY2013) at the same time that the property tax increase for the new high school takes effect.

Longmeadow's spotty record (50/50) in supporting operational overrides provides an uncertain future for our town.

Given that town employee salaries + benefits represent a very large percentage (> 75%) of the town’s budget, the primary means to reduce spending is to layoff town employees (including teachers) and/or continue with the 0% COLA scenario for the foreseeable future. Neither one is very appealing. If we lose many of our quality teachers due to layoffs or non-competitive salaries but have a new $78 million school, Longmeadow will be a “big time” net loser.

Other cuts such as those that were being considered for the FY2011 budget including reduction of Storrs Library services and hours, Park and Rec programs, etc…. will need to be reconsidered in order to achieve reduced spending.

At the May 25 Special Town Meeting, current Select Board member Paul Santaniello expressed his support for the new high school project with the caveat that "it's just the beginning". He emphasized that Longmeadow has other significant infrastructure capital needs including a DPW facility, water/ sewer, renovation of Glenbrook/ Williams Middle Schools.... and town taxpayers will need to support them as well.

I am very concerned that there may be a dismal future for Longmeadow unless Longmeadow taxpayers are willing to allow taxes to increase considerably more than what Proposition 2-1/2 allows.

No comments: