Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Something else to consider….

by both sides of the school building project debate.

As described in a news story that appeared in yesterday's Republican, there is an active ballot question initiative to reduce Massachusetts sales taxes from 6.25% to 3%. Approval of this ballot question in November would reduce annual state revenue by up to $2.4 billion beginning January 1, 2011.

A recent poll by Suffolk University/ WHDH-TV found 49% supporting the initiative and 44% opposed and 7% undecided.

According to Michael Widmer of the business-backed Mass Taxpayers Foundation that does not support the initiative, half of the state budget is dedicated to mandatory spending with only local aid to cities and towns, human education and higher education available for cuts.

Click here to read the full story….

Some issues to consider when deciding how to vote on the Proposition 2½ debt exclusion question at tonight’s special town meeting and at next week’s election…

1. Katherine Craven- Executive Director of the MSBA told us last week that one percent of the state sales tax is committed to the MSBA and used to provide money for Massachusetts school building projects. If Longmeadow does not approve the grant money now, the funds used by MSBA may be reduced significantly and not be available to Longmeadow in the future. She did state that the promised funds for Longmeadow are already set aside.

2. A relatively small reduction (4%) in state aid to Longmeadow for the upcoming FY2011 caused a significant reduction in town services including teacher/ town employee layoffs, reductions in town/school services and a teachers contract with 0% COLAs for the next two years. Any significant cut in state aid that may result through voter approval of the state sales tax reduction will likely require additional Proposition 2½ overrides over the next 1-5 years to maintain the current level of school and town services. If these additional overrides are not approved, this will necessitate drastic reductions in school/town services in order to balance the budget.

The new high school building project costing Longmeadow $44 million over 25 years is akin to a ~$3.2 million override in starting in FY2013 (July 2012)- not something that we should dismiss without serious deliberate thought. In FY2013 we will also be renegotiating the teachers and other town employee contracts again.

Our infrastructure needs, the uncertainty of state aid to cities and towns and our limited financial resources highlight the need to consider this school building project decision very carefully.

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