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On Saturday, a “No” vote is the way to go

May 29, 2012

It’s hard to believe, but the 2012 Walpole town election is now just a few days away. This election process has been quite a ride. For those of you who have been reading 180 since the very first anti-override blog post back in August 2011, thank you for checking out 180 for continued override coverage over these many grueling months.

For the seventh year in a row (a nightmare that won’t go away), local voters will be asked to decide on a Proposition 2.5 override on Saturday. There are also a number of interesting races on the ballot, particularly the race for Selectmen which could either see an upset or more of the same. See a full list of all candidates on the ballot here.

Over the next few days, 180 will wrap up its election coverage with endorsements for Selectmen and School Committee, and then on Friday, 180 will publish predictions of election winners. On Saturday starting at 8 p.m., 180 will have live coverage of the results on our Twitter feed.

A few months ago, I said I would “do my part to promote a civil discussion about this override proposal, with a debate based on the override’s merits.” I believe I have stayed true to this vow, and I hope you’d agree. I would have liked to be a lot less civil because I have been attacked a lot these past few months for my views by less-than-civil individuals, but I’m still here and I haven’t changed my views at all. I am still steadfastly against this override.

I think the following quote is appropriate to describe some of the attacks on my opinions:

“When you hear that people are talking about you, remember this: ‘Birds always peck at the best fruit.’ ” — Unknown

Last year, I decided to abstain on voting on the Walpole Woodworkers land purchase debt exclusion override because I did not pay property taxes.

I still do not pay property taxes. This is a fact that I have readily admitted.

Although I abstained last year, I will vote on the override this year because this will be a permanent addition to the property tax base, as opposed to a temporary debt exclusion tax hike. If this vote passes (or doesn’t pass) it would undoubtedly affect my property taxes or quality of life if I decided to eventually buy a house and pay property taxes here in the future. I also think I should have a say in any decision that involves expanding the size of government and making it difficult for the current young generation of future taxpayers to sustain.

If it’s not already obvious, I will be a firm “No” vote. It is quite evident that the town needs significant reform in our spending before it needs more revenue.

Here is a brief rundown of why I am voting no:

  • The government has enough of our money. The town of Walpole has a $68 million budget, but has chosen to spend money on unneeded priorities like pay raises, longevity bonuses, and capital budget waste. This spending is being put ahead of our students. The state sales tax has gone up with no corresponding increase in local aid. The local meals tax has gone up with no corresponding increase in services to the public. Property taxes have gone up every year within the 2.5 percent limit with no corresponding cutback in the whining from town officials about how they don’t have enough cash on hand. We are being squeezed for more and more every year. Government must learn to use the money it already has, which is quite a bit, rather than returning to taxpayers to squeeze them for more. Stop the whining and use the money you have already taken out of my wallet!
  • The override doesn’t solve our problems. We have unfunded and underfunded mandates that must be addressed if we truly intend to solve our fiscal crisis. Our school officials have shown no interest in unseating our incumbents to introduce some real change and end the shell game on Beacon Hill. We also have cost problems, particularly in our payroll. These problems will continue to get worse.
  • The override won’t be sustainable. The School Superintendent says it is guaranteed to keep the district financially solvent for a minimum of five years. This projection is disturbing. The $600,000 “sustainability fund” included in this override is an arbitrary amount that won’t necessarily carry the district for any period of time. The “sustainability fund” can also be used as a slush fund, as officials already have plans to use the money for one-time expenses in the first year. The potential “one-time expenses” that the district could come up with to use for this slush fund are truly limitless. When the Walpole Teachers Association goes to the negotiating table next year to bargain a new teachers’ contract, they will have full knowledge of the “sustainability fund” and the willingness of taxpayers to support an override if the threatened cuts are disastrous enough, making it difficult to extract significant concessions from the union. There is simply no way to honestly call this override “sustainable” with a straight face.
  • The town ignored its self-imposed hiring freeze to hire 12 new employees in 2011 and now wants to blow through a snow surplus to buy a new dump truck, showing that the town doesn’t know how to be conservative with its money. The town can not be trusted with a $3 million infusion into their budget until they can learn to manage their existing revenue properly. A “hiring freeze” should mean exactly that.
  • There is no mention of how the $300,000 municipal portion of the override will be kept “sustainable.” The town will be hiring a new police officer with that money, despite the town not needing a new police officer. There is no evidence crime will go down with an extra cop on the streets, and crime has not been going up in Walpole.
  • The override will be a permanent addition to the tax base of about $330 per family per year. Considering that it won’t solve our problems, won’t be sustainable, and is unnecessary considering the town’s already-massive $68 million budget, this override deserves a stinging defeat on June 2.

Blog posts to take a look at: (Looking back, there are a lot of other blog posts that I wish I could have written about this override if I had the time.)

Column: Town asking for money as spending problem worsens – 5/25/12
No. of high-paid town employees skyrockets – 5/18/12
Lawson repeats what I said – 5/17/12
Solutions to town’s fiscal crisis – 5/16/12
Some columns to take a look at – 5/15/12
New budget documents available – 5/7/12
Article 12 is exactly the “unsustainable” problem – 4/25/12
A response to Mrs. Gallivan – 4/25/12
The false choice: your money or your kids’ futures – 4/16/12
Save the surplus, don’t spend it – 3/14/12
Proposed override won’t be sustainable – 3/12/12
More education spending and more teachers = same results – 2/20/12
How much would this override buy? – 2/16/12
Town should not seek override in FY 2013 – 2/13/12
School override push begins – 2/2/12
I can’t support a municipal override with this – 1/25/12
Walpole police seem to be doing fine without administrator… 1/13/12
Time to talk tough about overrides – 1/11/12
Walpole needs fiscal task force – 12/29/11
Too many assistants, not enough leadership – 12/13/11
More cuts to make to the town budget – 12/2/11
Some more thoughts about town spending – 11/22/11
We knew this override was coming – 11/20/11
The quest for “small” is costing us big – 11/7/11
How the schools can avoid an override – 10/21/11
Time to get real about town spending – 9/17/11
Town officials talking about an override – 8/14/11
It’s great working for the Town of Walpole – 8/5/11
Capital Budget Waste – 4/27/11
Walpole residents pay more to get less – 2/21/11
Pay Freezes – Not in Walpole – 4/23/10

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