Yes on 1
Please join us in voting yes on Question 1 on March 26.
The Select Board and School Committee voted unanimously to support the $8M operating override along with a $2 million investment in capital infrastructure.
The override provides the necessary amount to support our schools and municipal government in coming years. We have the choice on March 26th to support excellence in our schools, maintain our buildings and bridges and deliver the same high level of police, fire and public works services.
Please join us on March 26 in support of Question 1.
— The Select Board
Lance Grenzeback, chair; Mariano Goluboff, vice chair; David Errico, Jacqueline Welch and Michael Bettencourt
Support the override
I have been a Town Meeting member for 40 years so I have been through this override process about every 10 years. I believe this one to be fully justified. It is literally impossible for a progressive town like Winchester with a minimal commercial tax base to do otherwise. Let me explain the key factors driving the increase.
First and foremost is the surging growth in our school system of 17 percent in the last 10 years which represents 67 percent of our town budget. General population growth and seniors moving out has resulted in new families with school age children moving in. This results in the need to build more classrooms, playfields and increase staffing. Also it has been necessary to either renovate or rebuild all our aging school buildings. In addition Winchester is receiving less state school funding as more and more state dollars are going to the towns with underperforming school systems.
Another major new expense is the flood mitigation program to finally remediate flooding in the town center and surrounding areas. The first part was the widening of the Aberjona River and then the rebuilding of our many bridges and the construction of larger culverts. In addition to these budget busters the town is dealing with inflation in wages and salaries, construction costs, retirement benefits, health care etc. For the past few years the town has balanced the budget by cutting back on personnel, deferring capital projects and dipping into our reserves. However, after our last override 10 years ago the time has come to bring in new revenue by way of an override.
As for our tax situation even with this override, our town taxes will be less than several of our neighboring quality towns like Lexington, Belmont, Concord, Wellesley and Weston. No one likes to pay more taxes but on the other hand our town provides us with excellent services. We like to say our town is one of the very best. The reality is to vote for the override or face major cuts in these services we have learned to expect and enjoy.
— Robert Johnson
Override to enable theatre program
My name is Rebecca and I am a seventh grader at McCall Middle School. As you know, there is a town election on March 26, and I urge you to vote yes on question one about having an override. This will do many great things for our town and schools, but there are two main reasons why I hope it passes. The first issue is class sizes. My largest class has 25 kids, which makes it very difficult to have one-on-one time with teachers, ask questions, and hear over the noise of my classmates.
If we do nothing, we will have to lay off some of our educators, possibly making classes even bigger! With funds from the override, we will be able to hire more teachers and teaching assistants, which will bring the classes to more reasonable sizes in all seven of our public schools. This will give students like me a much better learning experience. The second reason you should vote yes on question one is to enrich the theatre program at the Middle and High School.
With the override, we will be able to hire a drama teacher, and have school-run plays. Theatre is one of my passions, and I believe that practicing the arts enhances your public speaking and social skills, and makes you a happier person. Here in Winchester we have very good art and music departments, but we are slightly behind in our drama department, which is something we need to fix.
Remember, this is the kids’ schools we are talking about, so before you cast your vote, I ask you to consult your children and grandchildren on what they think about question one, and give the students a say in our future.
— Rebecca Vernaglia
“Yes” on one supports a thoughtful plan
On March 26th, I hope you’ll join me in voting Yes on Question One to protect Winchester ‘s financial plan and to cast one of your two Select Board votes for Susan Verdicchio, who has the skills to manage our resources wisely. As a Town Meeting member, I appreciate the challenges our Town leaders have faced, prudently controlling costs for the last 10 years since our last general overrode. The time has come to re-invest in our operating expenses.
Since 2000, Winchester’s population has grown by more than 7 percent, our school enrollment grew by more than 25 percent, and health care costs increased –but our capped revenues have not kept pace. As a result, essential expenditures for staff, programs, capital projects, and reserve funds are currently at minimal levels and there is no room for further reduction without serious consequence to service quality and the town’s creditworthiness.
A yes on one supports a thoughtful plan developed with rigorous input by our town boards and unanimous support of our Select Board. Please also join me in casting one of your two Select Board votes for Susan Verdicchio, a two-term member of Winchester’s School Committee who has contributed to progress on complex initiatives like all-day kindergarten, new school start times, and capital projects through thoughtful leadership. I have been privileged to work with Susan in many capacities and know she’ll bring experience, analytical skills, integrity and a commitment to public service for the well being of our entire community.
— Carol Savage
Decrease tax burden on those in need
We moved to Winchester 20 years ago, for the schools. Our youngest child is a senior at Winchester High School. All three of our kids attended the old Vinson Owen school and had a terrific elementary experience. And now we are now just about done with this stage of our lives.
While raising our kids we have been blessed to have encountered wonderful people. From teachers and administrators, town employees and the many volunteer citizens in our town. We have supported fundraisers and volunteered hours to help fill the gaps. We have seen unmet needs that had to be taken care of with private funds and we feel that it is time to bring the town to a sustainable level of funding.
Proposition 2.5 was enacted to force towns to budget wisely and only consider raising taxes as a last resort. For ten years Winchester has carefully managed its funds, doing more with less, spending down our town’s savings and relying on private fundraising to fill in large gaps. We need publicly funded budgets to meet the day to day needs of our schools and our town departments.
We need adequate funding for police officers, DPW help and a technology director for Winchester public schools. We need enough teachers to keep the class size at WHS reasonable, not 30-plus in English classes as we are now seeing. We shouldn’t have to increase class sizes at the elementary schools, fire crossing guards, cut athletics and increase fees to make the budget balance. No one wants to pay higher taxes, no one wants to increase their bills but we live in a town that relies on residential taxes to function.
Let’s look for ways to decrease the tax burden on those in need while realizing we need to fund budgets that meet all of our town’s needs.
— Brendan and Heidi Driscoll
Vote yes on override
Winchester is a great community. Together we face an important decision to keep it that way with the ballot override question on March 26th. Our town leaders have worked hard to avoid a budget override for over 10 years, but we truly need one this year. Winchester’s population has grown steadily in those 10 years, including student population growth of 17 percent. Our budget needs have outpaced our revenues and we need to address this to avoid teacher layoffs, reduced services, and potentially lower bond ratings which will only make our future financial situation worse.
Part of what makes Winchester so vibrant is our excellent school system. We can be proud of the education afforded to all our students. Our consistent top ratings help keep our property values growing. We have achieved this despite being 15 percent below the state average on per-pupil spending. The override is necessary to keep pace with our student population growth. It is not a case of just asking for more money for raises or “nice-to-have” added services. Without the override, 15-18 general education teachers would be laid off, putting even more pressure on class sizes that are already maxed out. Our ongoing educational success is a testament to our educators and support staffs. It is our duty to continue to provide adequate support for their efforts.
A “yes” vote will also help to financially stabilize our police, ambulance, and fire departments so we can continue to provide safety for all. Due to budget restrictions, our services are already stripped down. Without an override, further budget restrictions would mean less safety. Again, our quality of life and safety is due to the great work of these first responders and we need to support them and the services they provide.
I have heard some people talking about better management of funds and just needing to “tighten the belt.” We are already running lean. We already have large class sizes and increased fees. As someone who is fiscally conservative, I agree that we should always look at cost reduction, streamlining, and spending efficiencies. Without an override though, we would not just need to be more efficient. We would lose core services that we need and value and that make Winchester the amazing community that is today and should be in the future. Please join me in supporting the override and voting yes on Ballot Question One on March 26.
— Chet Harding
Vote yes on 1
Over the past several years, Winchester schools have grown at an unprecedented rate (17 percent), while achieving recognition as one of the highest performing school districts in the state. At a time when class sizes were rapidly expanding, the school budget was under pressure from unfunded state mandates, increased healthcare costs and aging infrastructure. In order to maintain services, Town Meeting prioritized investment in our school buildings and flood mitigation efforts and deferred an operating override so that residents realized some relief on imminent tax increases.
The Town was able to achieve this delay by underfunding our municipal budget, deferring obligations in our classrooms, and using reserves to balance our budget. This level of careful planning and frugality allowed the town to maintain a Aaa credit rating, a necessary component of Winchester’s future. The schools have shifted more of the burden to parents to fund athletics and transportation by charging fees that have become untenable for many working families. What we know now is that this growth is not a bubble but a baseline for future funding needs.
This override funding was presented to Town Meeting after a year of intensive budget research, modeling and discussions with representation by all elected boards and committees. This was understood as the least amount necessary to continue to support our schools and municipal government in coming years.
Our community has a long history of supporting excellence in education, opportunity for our students, and investments in public safety. We realize that there is an impact that these tax increases may have on residents who have supported our community for many years. In an effort to mitigate some of that impact, the Select Board will be sponsoring an article at Spring Town Meeting for tax relief for eligible seniors in our community.
We hope you join us in voting yes on 1 to fully fund the existing needs of our town and keep Winchester the strong and vibrant community it is today.
— Lia O’Donnell, Stacey Irizarry, Cecilia Carrion-Carmona, Kathryn Schadinger, Christoph Schadinger, Laura Rollins and Deborah DePeter