Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Facts, Ma'am.

In case you were wondering about the flurry of papers that fell out of your Reminder this week, one of them is from the Citizens for a Responsible Government. This organization has been opposed to much progress in the town's history, and I was pleased to see that Mark Barowsky, Chair of the Longmeadow Finance Committee, responded to what he called the "published propoganda" via a note to the School Building Committee (SBC) with many points of clarification and correction. Of course, the SBC knows the truth, so he is preaching to the choir. I post much of his letter here as a way of reaching out to a wider audience of interested readers. All emphasis via bold/italics is mine.

"A flyer inserted in this week's reminder by the CITIZENS FOR A RESPONSIBLE GOVERNMENT made erroneous statements as to the position and [recommendation] of the Finance Committee presented at the Special Town meeting on May 11th.

"The Finance Committee's recommendation was that the project is 'financially feasible' not 'feasible'"

"The Finance Committee at no time stated that taxes will double by the year 2020 if only this project was approved"

"The Finance Committee's calculation for the rise in taxes through 2020 NEVER included a negotiated contractual escalation of 4.5% for labor costs"

What about those other projects? Like other town buildings? Like the DPW facilities? Or Williams or Glenbrook? Or how about a sky bridge to connect the Community House and Town Hall? Or a monorail, for that matter? ;-)

In all seriousness, lots of things can be considered, but few are within the realm of possibility. What does Mr. Barowsky say about them?

"The Finance Committee has noted that while there have been many studies performed that there has been no prioritization for any of the projects and while there is a recognized need, it has yet been determined if any of these projects need to be on an immediate basis. The Finance Committee has recommended that the boards prioritize and put a plan in place as to which and when each project should be initiated."

"Unless the statement was made behind closed doors, the comment that 'several of the Finance Committee members repeatedly insisted that property owners could always choose not to pay the taxes' was never made in our meetings. Such an aberration can only be deemed a deception."

"This Citizens for a Responsible Government seem to use such information as a drunken man uses lamp posts - for support rather than for illumination."

I don't know about that, but I do know that the focus on any town vote should be based on the facts, on the legitimate merits of a case. The facts of the LHS are clear--clearly disturbing. The need for action has been established. The proposed plan meets those needs and addresses the concerns about maintenance and cost effectiveness. The proposal we will vote on JUNE 8th at the Community House from 8am to 8pm is a financially feasible proposal. The whole town will benefit if the vote is a gracious YES, thank you.

Rebecca M. Townsend
for more information, see Lancer Pride

This just in from Peter Greenberg, also a member of the Finance Committee:

As a member of the Finance Committee, whose responsibility it is to conduct long range fiscal planning, we have reviewed a number of 10 year scenarios. When you scenario plan, you assume both good and bad. That leads to “what ifs”, uncertainty and outright guesses. I admit that I don’t have the powers to foresee the next 10 years and these days, it’s hard to predict what may happen 6 months from now. But what I can tell you today, at this moment, is that our Town has very little long term debt and can afford the LHS project before you, our residents on June 8.

I don’t have to remind you that our town’s financial Achilles heel is that our tax base is limited by its residential nature and the restrictions of Proposition 2 1/2. There simply is very little extra revenue to fund these major capitol projects while trying to maintain the level of day to day services that we now enjoy. We have to find, and if deemed proper, embrace any opportunity that allows us to one by one, rebuild our worn out infrastructure.

One of these opportunities is upon us. For nearly thirteen years, we have been trying to get to this point today, where a viable option finally exists to fix our High School. Over the last 22 months, the Longmeadow School Building Committee (SBC) of which I am also a member, has worked to position our project within the guidelines of the MSBA, knowing full well that we had one shot to take advantage of the current reimbursement program. The alternative: Lose the approved 34 million dollar grant and literally start over competing with 100’s of other school districts already vying for the same dollars. Again, looking at this moment in time, losing that money would be in my opinion, financially irresponsible.

Thousands of hours have gone into the design of the high school submitted to and approved by the MSBA for funding. It keeps us competitive with other bedroom communities in providing a high school facility that can legitimately reach a 50-year life cycle. It will allow our teachers today and tomorrow to fully take advantage of 21st century learning initiatives and it provides key academic and community spaces that our current footprint under any renovation plan would be difficult to match.

Surrounding communities have recently supported investing in new high school projects while facing similar economic constraints as Longmeadow. I hope that as a community, we seek to understand every dimension of this decision, encompassing both current residents and future generations. Though it is difficult to separate today’s seemingly uphill battle from the hope and promise of a better tomorrow, I believe the residents of Longmeadow will ultimately make the right decision.

In the 50’s my grandparents made that decision by voting for the construction of our current high school facility. I honor their memory and their foresight to keep excellence in the delivery of Longmeadow’s public education, by suggesting that we do the right thing for our children and grandchildren, and vote yes for this project.

Thank you.
Peter Greenberg

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