As Arlington residents consider their choices for the upcoming votes on the Arlington High School project and general operating budget override, they are faced with a fundamental dilemma. On the one hand, do they trust that those in favor of positive votes are presenting an accurate picture of the current situation, and will do their best to use taxpayer dollars wisely. On the other hand, are they willing to risk the potential consequences to their own interests if they side with those in favor of negative votes.
For the High School project, a negative vote will cost Arlington residents more. In the short term, while the existing buildings could still be used to provide basic educational services, the High School is in real danger of losing its accreditation. This will force the Town to make cuts to non-school services in order to free up the funds needed to make piecemeal renovations to the High School. And these fixes will have to be paid for by Arlington residents alone, with no cost-sharing by the State. The long -term impact of a loss of accreditation goes beyond the short-term fixes, and it is reasonable to expect that once Arlington’s educational system’s reputation suffers, property values will also suffer as a result. As a Town, we have a solid history of building schools on-time and on-budget. Further, the State’s MSBA provides a strong level of oversight and assurance to residents that their tax dollars are spent on core educational requirements and not fancy extras.
For the override vote, there are also reasons why a negative vote might be appealing in the short term. At the same time, there are consequences that can have both short- and long-term effects. A fact that all residents should keep in mind is that the last override’s impact on Town services extended far longer than anybody would have guessed. We are at our current situation not because of mismanagement or excessive spending, but because of the general rise in the cost of providing services in this area. The short-term impact of a negative vote could be staffing cuts in areas such as the libraries and public works. Long-term impacts could be cuts to fire and police, putting residents’ property values and perhaps even their safety at risk.
Please join me in supporting positives votes for the High School and Override.