Co-chair, YES for Lexington campaign
Lexington voters are being asked to move forward with three essential capital projects: a new Hastings Elementary School, a new fire station headquarters, and a new Lexington Children’s Place (our town pre-school). All of these buildings are over 60 years old, have outlived their useful life, and are critically important to our town. I strongly urge voters to support the ballot questions.
Our fire station headquarters, built in 1947, was designed for a town of 14,500 people and about 650 responses per year. Today, it serves over 32,000 residents requiring more than 3,600 responses annually. Seventy years ago, fire trucks were half the size and weight of modern vehicles, making parking and storage extremely tight in the current building. Over time, the heavier equipment caused structural failings of the apparatus floor, which is now supported by temporary cribbing.
Built in 1955, Hastings Elementary School does not meet modern school building codes. It, too, has experienced structural problems, and students attend a school without a sprinkler system. The building’s degree of deterioration qualified it for $16.5 million in reimbursements from the state, which would reduce replacement costs from $65.3 million to $48.8 million. A “no” vote would mean rejecting this aid, and the town would be responsible for costly upgrades to simply bring the building to code. We would also forgo an important opportunity to add much-needed capacity to our over-crowded district.
Lexington Children’s Place is our state-mandated, integrated preschool, serving children who qualify for special education services alongside “typically developing” peers. It has been moved 14 times since 1997 and has now outgrown its current space. Since 2015, the preschool has been split between two buildings — separated by 600 feet across two parking lots — creating unsafe conditions for our most vulnerable students and programmatic inefficiencies.
These projects are the result of years of careful planning by town officials, both professional and volunteer. They will result in an increase in annual taxes that will rise to a maximum of $418 for a median home in fiscal 2024 before declining after that. We understand this is a significant ask of voters, but we can no longer delay these essential investments in our town infrastructure.
(For more on YES for Lexington’s take on the projects and the efforts of the town to provide sound fiscal management, visit www.yes4lex.org.)
Chair, Committee for Financial Responsibility in Lexington
The Dec. 4 vote is about how to fund three projects — a new Hastings school, a fire station, and a pre-school — costing $85.7 million.
We all want these projects built. The question is how to fund them.
The ballot questions ask, “Shall the Town of Lexington be allowed to exempt from the provisions of [Proposition 2½] . . . the amounts required to pay for the bonds issued in order to pay costs . . . ” for the projects.
The answer is “No” because these projects can be paid for within the town’s current budget, without raising taxes.
If voters say “Yes,” the town will collect $6 million more annually in taxes to repay the debt. We calculate a typical house ($831,000 assessment) will pay $350-$490, or about 3 percent more in annual taxes. (Our figures, based on data presented to Town Meeting, are detailed at Lexvote.org. They differ from the town’s projections).
If voters say “No,” the town can fund these projects without a tax increase, by saving $6.5 million annually, as follows:
■ Reassign just 3.2 percent of our elementary students, while staying within current classroom guidelines. We estimate this saves $2 million and frees up 16 classroom spaces to accommodate rising enrollments.
■ Raise our employees’ salaries and reduce the town’s 85 percent contribution to health premiums to keep total compensation intact. Our married employees will have an incentive to subscribe to a plan from their spouse’s employer. We estimate this saves the town $2.5 million.
■ Convince the state or communities sending us METCO students to cover the $2 million we estimate the program costs Lexington taxpayers.
Additionally, Lexington can raise more money by assessing large commercial properties at full market value (many are now vastly under-assessed) and cut taxes on small homes (where seniors and people with limited incomes tend to live) with a “residential exemption.”
Now is the time to fund projects creatively without tax increases, especially in light of the looming need to fund a major high school renovation. It’s not too late to implement these measures, ignored by the Town for too long: Vote “No” so the Town funds these projects without a 3 percent tax increase.
(For more on the Committee for Financial Responsibility in Lexington’s position on the projects and their cost, go to Lexvote.org.)
Last week’s argument: Should National Football League players be punished for kneeling during the national anthem?
Yes: 69.74% (53 votes)
No: 30.26% (23 votes)