Selectmen at odds on Override timing

The Belmont Citizen Herald is reporting today on a Board of Selectmen meeting last night that makes it look likely that the town will be asked to vote for an override of Proposition 2 1/2 to close a hole in the town’s operational budget deficit. But as the story makes clear, there’s still deep disagreement over the timing of the override and how much voters will be asked to approve.

Despite an estimated $5m difference between the amount needed to fund the town’s current operations at level service and the amount Belmont will collect in commercial and residential taxes, the Selectmen were divided on how much to ask voters to approve and what conditions would satisfy them in asking for the override. Selectmen Angelo Firenze and Ralph Jones are quoted saying that he was  not inclined to support an override if it did not require changes in the town’s governmental structure, such as consolidation of certain town functions and departments.

Selectman Dan LeClerc, reiterating a point he made in an interview with B2 earlier in the month, backed a smaller, incremental override, but raised questions about hinging an override vote on governmental changes — noting that such changes could not be carried out  before an override vote would be required, in June.

“No one has talked to me about consolidating town departments,” LeClerc is qutoed as saying. “I only talk about that at the Warrant Committee and [Board of Selectmen meetings].”

Indeed, Firenze and Jones have been vague about what conditions would meet their satisfaction or what steps toward consolidating services would translate into a green light on an override vote. Nor is it clear that town voters see the override question as intimately linked with consolidation of services.

A second and, likely, contentious issue is the timing of the vote. A delay in state approval of construction of a new Wellington Elementary school means that voters won’t get to weigh in on that issue on the regularly scheduled April ballot. That makes a combined ballot for Wellington and an override more likely. Selectman Firenze said town voters would be ill disposed to paying for two special elections just to keep the issues separate (B2 agrees), while Selectman LeClerc said he’d prefer to see the votes kept separate.