Should Brookline voters approve the proposed operating override and the high school debt exclusion?
Brookline Select Board member
students. The $6.6 million override funds important investments in academic and behavioral interventions benefiting all students, professional development on racial equity and other bias, financial assistance programs, and more equitable student transportation. Furthermore, it funds necessary town and school building repair/maintenance, snow removal, sidewalk repair, core staffing for senior services, libraries, recreation, sustainability, and preservation.
Question 2, a debt exclusion, addresses the reality that Brookline High School needs an expansion/renovation now. With over 2,000 students, the school is already overcrowded. The growth in the elementary grades is beginning to hit the high school. We expect at least 500 more students in coming years as those already in our K-8 schools arrive at the high school. Additionally, our high school science facilities are outdated and no longer meet state standards. The $205.6 million project would also provide community recreational benefits by modernizing the very tired Tappan Gym and Cypress Field.
Critically, two YES votes will help Brookline maintain its AAA bond rating, lowering interest rates for all town and school construction — including streets, parks, and buildings.
If we do not pass both questions, elementary students will suffer a loss of educators and larger class sizes, and all residents will experience declining services. Brookline High School will be intolerably overcrowded with inadequate science classrooms; and recreation and community spaces will further deteriorate. Opponents say our property tax increases are too costly. But these increases have been small compared to the escalation in property values since 2012: 54 percent for single family, 63 percent for condominiums, according to the Boston Globe. High quality community services are integral to home values.
Protect Brookline’s future! Vote YES!
Co-chair, Brookline Coalition Against Unfair Taxation
Brookline’s May 8 Town Election will include two Proposition 2 ½ override ballot questions:
Question 1: A general override that would increase forever the town’s annual tax levy by $6.6 million to meet school and other costs — one of the largest operating overrides ever in Massachusetts, according to state Department of Revenue data.
Question 2: A debt exclusion to help fund borrowing payments over 25 years for the proposed $205.6 million high school expansion and renovation — by far Brookline’s highest-cost school building project ever. By law, the ballot question does not specify the borrowing amount.
While the high school does need expansion, the enormity of the proposed $205.6 million project seems needlessly extravagant.
And while the schools’ operating deficit is real, the $6.6 million of new spending sought under Question 1 goes beyond mere enrollment growth, including an ask for new administrative positions when there is no evidence the Brookline schools are short of administrators.
It is simply not clear that these two overrides must be so enormous.
Those advocating for the override are not disclosing the full, ongoing financial impact of town and school policies:
Up to four costly additional overrides are likely in the next half dozen years, including:
— One or two more operating overrides to control likely future deficits and to staff the ninth elementary school.
— One or two more school building debt exclusion overrides.
We calculate that the two May 8 overrides plus just the first two of the above-noted future overrides, together with normal annual tax increases, would hike property tax bills by more than 35 percent in just six years. Rising interest rates and construction costs and the two other looming overrides could raise taxes by far more than 35 percent.
The fact that local property and state income taxes over $10,000 are now non-deductible will make all overrides less affordable. Frequent overrides are driving out Brookline’s middle-income families. Our seniors, who have anticipated aging in place, now wonder how many more years they can afford to remain in their homes.
Many voters who have supported prior school overrides this time may find themselves unable to endorse a steep upward tax burden trajectory that they simply cannot afford.
(This is an informal poll, not a scientific survey. Please vote only once.)