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Arlington approves $6.49 million override

Posted by Brock Parker  June 7, 2011 09:13 PM

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Taxes will increase by $450 per year on the median-priced Arlington home after voters Tuesday approved an override that will save dozens of teaching jobs in the town.

With a turnout of about 47 percent of Arlington voters, 7,226 people voted in favor of the Proposition 2 ½ override and only 6,366 voted against the tax hike, according to preliminary results.

The override will raise about $6.49 million in additional property taxes that town officials said will be used to balance multi-million budget deficits that had been projected for the next three fiscal years.

If the override had failed, officials said they would have been forced to cut 40 teachers and additional staff from Arlington schools, scale back library hours, and cut more than a dozen jobs from the public works, fire and police departments.

School Committee Chairwoman Cindy Starks said she believes the override succeeded largely due to the work of the volunteers on the Yes for Arlington campaign supporting the tax increase.

“This is so exciting,” Starks said Tuesday night. “We don’t have to lay off any teachers.”
In addition to preventing layoffs, about $600,000 of the revenue raised by the override will be used to restoring some reading and math programs and some will be used to reduce athletic fees, which soared last year because of budget constraints.

Starks said had been optimistic about the election after the Yes for Arlington campaign met last week and realized that it had met its three goals of raising about $22,000, garnering the help of more than 5,000 volunteers and identifying 6,000 voters who would support the override.

The override also sparked a campaign of opponents led by the Coalition for Responsible Spending, which said the town should not be seeking a tax increase while many are still feeling the effects of a down economy. The Coalition argued that officials should better manage town finances and find other ways to balance the budget instead of raising taxes.

Maria Romano, a Town Meeting member who had helped the Coalition for Responsible Spending campaign against the override, said she thought town officials had used fear about layoffs and service cuts to push the override through.

“I think it should have gone down,” Romano said.

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