With his permission, I am forwarding a message originally composed by Sanjay Padaki, a Town Meeting Member from Precinct 8, and forwarded to me by Edith Sandy. This message urges people to remember to vote tomorrow in the Special Town Election concerning Debt Exclusion. I have added a little bit concerning the wording of the question. I have also made sure that nothing in this message advocates for one or the other side of this issue. The facts are all here for you to make your decision.
Tuesday May 3rd is an important day for all residents of our town. You may have seen the yard signs, read the newspaper articles and received mail regarding the debt exclusion vote on that day.
I am including some additional information and links below that you might find useful before you cast your vote.
1. What is this vote about?
Lexington schools are overcrowded. One element of the plan to address this issue is to add new capacity at both the Diamond and Clarke middle schools. Tuesday's vote is asking town citizens whether they would be willing to raise property taxes in order to pay for the renovation and addition of space at these school buildings. The exact wording of the question that is being voted on is:
QUESTION 1: Shall the Town of Lexington be allowed to exempt from the provisions of proposition two and one half, so-called, the amounts required to pay for the bonds issued in order to pay costs of (i) conducting master planning, design, renovation and additions to elementary and secondary school facilities, including the acquisition and installation of modular classrooms, and (ii) undertaking additions, remodeling, reconstructing and making extraordinary repairs to the Jonas Clarke and William Diamond Middle Schools, located at 17 Stedman Road and 99 Hancock Street, respectively, including the payment of costs of architectural and engineering services, original equipment and landscaping, paving and other site improvements incidental or directly related to such additions, remodeling, reconstruction or repair?
Yes _____ No _____
The warrant for this election can be seen in its entirety at http://www.lexingtonma.gov/sites/lexingtonma/files/uploads/warrant-debt_exclusion-final.pdf
2. Why is there a vote?
Property taxes normally increase at the rate of 2.5% every year (the so called Prop Two and a Half). The exact value of the property tax increase is dependent on the assessed value of your home. By law, any debt or borrowing that is needed beyond the 2.5% requires a majority vote by the town citizens.
3. How much does the town need to borrow?
The town needs approximately $71.7 Million to fund these projects
4. What exactly are we spending this money on?
The town engineers made a presentation at Town Meeting which describes the proposed work. This document can be found here:
5. How much will my property tax increase by?
The Town Selectmen have done an impact analysis for a house of median value ($786,000) which can be found here:
The charts that are relevant to the May 3rd vote are on Pages 3 & 4. Page 3 shows the tax increase over the next 10 years if the YES vote succeeds (normal 2.5% rate + additional debt). Page 4 shows the tax increase over the next 10 years if the NO vote succeeds (normal 2.5% rate).
6. Will there be other similar increases in property tax in the future?
There are several other capital projects at various stages of development. A key one is the rebuilding of the Hastings Elementary School which has been approved for state MSBA funding. Over the next months and years, these projects will be progressed and will likely result in another debt exclusion vote. The total estimated impact to taxes of all the projects (including the middle school renovations) can be found on Page 1 of the report above.
7. Have Town Meeting Members voted on this issue?
Town Meeting voted 152-2-4 (For-Against-Abstain) in March to approve this article. However, by law, this article requires an additional vote by the entire town.
8. Where can I find more information?
Both the YES and NO campaigns have websites which discuss the pros and cons of this article.
YES Campaign: http://yes4lex.org/
NO Campaign: http://lexvote.org/
This is a very important vote and the effects of it will be felt for many, many years by the town residents.
I encourage you to read and make an informed decision.
Don't forget to vote on Tuesday!