A lot of questions, and a ton of money, are on Tuesday’s ballot

Saturday, May 16, 2009
By Cary Shuman

By Joseph Domelowicz Jr.

For the Transript

During previous, unsuccessful, Proposition 2 1/2 override questions, the town has simply asked voters to place their faith in their elected and appointed officials.

And on Tuesday, with a worsening financial situation facing town and state leaders, voters in Winthrop will head to the polls once again, but for the first time in three years, to decide if the town should raise more tax money to provide local basic services.

However, the difference this year is that town officials haven’t asked voters to trust them. Instead, they have put it on the voters to make the difficult decisions about where to cut in the budget.

Each of the 10 parts to the $2.635 million Proposition 2 1/2 override question awaiting voters at the polls on Tuesday is tied directly to a budget area that will face reductions or eliminations if the questions don’t pass. In many cases, the questions explicitly describe how many town employees will lose their jobs, or which town departments will face reductions, if the questions are rejected.

If voters fail to support the first question on the ballot, they’ll face the loss of town trash service. If the fourth part of the question fails, two full- time police officers positions will be eliminated; and if the sixth part of the question fails, two firefighters will also be gone.

Interim Town Manager Larry Holmes, who with the help of the town’s budget team and Town Council helped to frame the override questions, said this week no guesswork or bluffing has gone into the question.

“If the third part of the question fails, the library will be closed,” said Holmes on Tuesday. “The same goes for the Senior Center, or any of the positions that are mentioned in the question. We could not have been more transparent.”

Holmes added some of the questions don’t state specifically which services or how many positions may be lost. The seventh part, for example, requests $84,666 for the assessors, MIS and health departments, none of which would create loss of a position. However, he said that if a section, such as section seven, should fail, the departments mentioned will have their budgets cut by the requested amount and it will be up to the department heads to determine how to offer the best services they can for the money that is left in their line items.

“To be honest, I hope that all of the questions pass,” said Holmes. “When you look at a department like the DPW (section 8, for $63,441) which has lost 15 employees in the past 10 years and is always being asked to do more with less, I think there is a lot of misunderstanding about what that department has done, and I have really come to respect the work they do, and I hope that people will support them on Election Day.”

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