Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Die is Cast

Amherst Select Board
Only figure mentioned last night was "$30 to $35 million"

With almost no discussion the Select Board rolled the dice last night and unanimously voted to place on the November 8th ballot a blank check Debt Exclusion Override rumored to be in the $30-$35 million range.

That is of course if it comes in on budget.  And we know how super reliable government building projects are at coming in on budget.

Since the authorization from the voters simply says the town can have enough money to construct "two co-located schools on the Wildwood site" that means no matter what the projected/estimated amount is, the taxpayers are clearly on the hook for any cost overruns.

The less than dynamic presentation to the Select Board included a brief presentation from the Wildwood Building Committee and Amherst School Committee Chair Katherine Appy, who admitted the School Committee never voted on a formal request to the Select Board regarding the Debt Exclusion Override.

Embattled School Superintendent Maria Geryk was not at the meeting.

The main reason the Select Board is hurriedly placing this epically important question on the the November 8th ballot (although they have until August 1st to do so) is to save $20,000 it would cost to hold a special election.

But long time Town Meeting member and poll worker Hilda Greenbaum pointed out this coming election is going to be overwhelming the Town Clerk's office as it is with the Presidential contest and marijuana legalization question already on the ballot.

And since this is such a vitally important issue, paying $20,000 for a stand alone election a little later in the process, allowing more time for public education,  is a wise investment.

In 2004 the Select Board authorized a Pyramid Override where two stand alone questions appeared on the same ballot, one for a $2 million amount and the other for $1.5 million.  The larger amount failed but the smaller amount passed.

But a Debt Exclusion Override can only authorized a project and not the actual dollar amount.

Which is kind of like sending your spouse out to "buy a new car" without giving them a firm dollar amount cap.




32 comments:

Anonymous said...

I hope your spouse Larry would not allow you to go buy a car without a spending cap.

Larry Kelley said...

Nope.

Anonymous said...

If the select board was worried about spending $20K why did it set up a separate election for the charter commission instead of holding it during the town election? that cost extra $$$

Anonymous said...

The superintendent is "embattled" in your mind. Seems to me she is going about doing her job.

Larry Kelley said...

From a secured underground bunker no doubt.

Anonymous said...

There was no reason for Maria Geryk to be at the SB meeting last night. Mike Morris has been the point person for this project since day one.

Larry Kelley said...

But he's not the Superintendent (yet).

Anonymous said...

Mike Morris keeps on encouraging a "reach for the stars" wish list for the two new schools and the total transformation of Crocker Farm.

A thought to fiscal restraint would be appreciated by those of us that do not have his salary!

Anonymous said...

What does that have to do with anything?

Dr. Ed said...

You know, by November, the UM students likely will have a truly visceral "F*** Amherst" attitude and may vote down the override out of spite, vote down any/all overrides

Larry Kelley said...

But if they smoke pot prior to voting, they may be in a better mood.

Anonymous said...

Two no votes in my house!

Dr. Ed said...

Larry, you don't understand UMass -- the number of beer-drinking students vastly outnumbers the potheads. They keep their heads down, but they are there. I would neither be surprised to see Trump carry the student vote nor defeat Pot.

Anonymous said...

Two NO votes in our hose, too!

Anonymous said...

Larry, what do you suggest as a solution to our school facilities?

Sckened by admin in Pelham said...

Yes there was Mike had a sick wife and child at home. After he covered all of Maria's meetings between March and the end of May when she was in her Hiza bunker Maria could have handled the meeting so he could be supportung his family.

Anonymous said...

My big issue is a late add has,no education associated with it on the ballot question itself. Makes a lot more work on outreach and reaching the students will be key.. for both sides.

Anonymous said...

I can't vote. I'm not in Amherst but with Regionalization looming over Pelham I sure wish I could.
Rebecca

Anonymous said...

My other concern is how the small town students will transition smoothly into 7th grade when all the children in Amherst have already formed social groups.

Anonymous said...

Is the Yes Board, I mean Select Board, going to pass along all these expensive projects to the taxpayers with nary a word? The Amherst School Committee didn't ask to put the mega school on the ballot, so who did? Did the Select Board put it on the ballot because it wants the lavish school, next a big renovation of the library, then onto the fire station, etc? Anything a committee wants it gets? No thoughts, no review, just yes?

Anonymous said...

This and all the other spending will sail through, but when everyone sees their tax bills, they will want a do over. There will be no do over! Just a huge tax increase that goes on for the rest of your lives.

Sckened by admin in Pelham said...

Listening to this like to talk about how during the pre-election advocating or selling of a ballot question to the public just feels a irresponsible to me. Any question that goes on the ballot needs education for the public a small paragraph describing the pros and cons and this late addition will exclude that from my understanding. I don't see how that's being responsible to the citizens of our town. And maybe it's just all of the negativity around the schools lately and all the problems we've had around the superintendent's office but I feel the timing of this played right into not educating the voters and then it's just another and manipulative move by Chestnut Street. All along this project has not involve public input or enough meetings discussing with the public the options that we have which I know are not many but in my mind I still believe that there's other choices we have all kinds of buildings that we could try to use to sell metal in the school problem but the fire station the DPW and all those other projects that Amherst want to take on down the road. Everything has to be a rush and we've already spent a million dollars on Consultants so I don't really see what the big deal is for the extra twenty thousand. I do believe having a vote closer to the holidays is rough for everybody but in the long run it's more about what's best for our kids., my understanding that was only one dissenting vote on the school committee for this project which was Vira's. So the school committee supports it but as we've seen over the last year the Amherst school committee has supported anything that Maria has supported. Vira is the only one who's had the guts to stand up and say no you have to give her that! I completely support this small school model. And I believe it's important to support our teachers and my understanding is our teachers are not supportive of this project. But I have been told a million times on this blog that I'm wrong & I don't know what I'm talking about so if someone has a different opinion I'm always more than willing to entertain others ideas and facts I may not be aware of.

Laura Quilter said...

The School Committee's own survey showed that the option chosen was preferred by only 4% of the teachers.

The option that would have been a good compromise would have been the dual K-6, moving FR & WW to a single new school building, and leaving Crocker Farm. There still would have been some neighborhood schooling; better chance at maintaining separate school identities; most of the logistical problems associated with the grade reconfiguration and transportation would have been better; Crocker Farm wouldn't have needed remodeling and additional paving (that's yet to come); etc. But this School Administration really isn't into compromise. Too bad, because as I pointed out last winter, it was irresponsible to gamble the Town's opportunity for this building on the least popular, most expensive, most complicated, and most problematic of the options.

Anonymous said...

Or renovate both Fort River and Wildwood with the state paying half the cost of one renovation. Or using the middle school building and adding some more classroom space. All options suggested.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Laura for filling me in. I hate to say it but you are right this administration has zero compromise.. and zero respect for the communities they serve. I would love to see them go but at the same time I think they should have to clean up the mess they have made. I want to see the evaluations because anyone on school committee that gave her a decent evaluation needs to be voted out. I'm ready to make our schools great again. To that we need a team in place that has the towns children best interests at heart. People who respect our schools enough to educate their own children in the schoold they are hired to run. Down the road the contract mess needs to be sorted out properly too. It doesn't serve Amherst or Pelham to have contracts be so entangled that we can't fire the SI. I personally think if it makes it super hard for parents who drive their children . If their K is in South Amherst and their 4th grader is on Strong St. bad choice all the way around !

Anonymous said...

The School Committee's own survey showed that the option chosen was preferred by only 4% of the teachers

Anonymous said...

He isn't going to be not here.. anyway.. i hope not. Seriously the whole team has to go Larry.. and he is to easy to push around.. We need someone else , someone local who doesn't have an agenda.. Doug Slaughter maybe .. at least he has a doctorate degree ( not in special ed) or.. maybe we can really kick some A**get Burrito to sit in for a year... at least he would come straight at you no knives in the back with him. He might chop your head off but you would see it coming.. Just not Marlene Deleo.. from Ware. She us the worse.. yes,worse than even Maria !

Anonymous said...

Lol fiscal restraint.. this administration runs the school and causes the expensive legal fees like we are Beverly Hills around here.. they all deserve a fail on that part of their evals ! Rebecca

Anonymous said...

My vote was for for keeping crocker seperate.. best for small towns, best for crocker, best for parents and siblings of FR and Ww. I still don't see why Maria and Mike didn't see that as the best option if fixing both FR and WW wasnt realistic.
Rebecca

Anonymous said...

Listening to the Select Board decision to put the Over-ride question on the November ballot, I was astounded that the Select Board would ask the voter to decide TWO huge issues with one ballot question. The issue of HOW we want to pay for the much-needed new school/s with HOW they were to be configured are separate policy issues that need much more town-wide discussion. Yes, I do have grandchildren in the Amherst and Regional systems and feel that both Wildwood and Fort River have been disastrous learning environments from Day 1--my own children having attended both Wildwood and Marks Meadow. Yes, we need to replace these schools but NO, I haven't heard any arguments that Pre-K, Kindergarten and First grade can't happen in each of THREE neighborhood schools. As said above, the best compromise solution is for FR and WW to share the footprint at the WW site as neighborhood schools and leave CF alone.

I told the SB Monday that I found it ludicrous and certain failure to put this convoluted question on the November ballot where most of the political discussion will be focused on the big race, cage-free chickens, veal and pork, marijuana for all--long questions on the ballot that will leave long lines, long waiting times at Precinct two and three in particular where many students vote. I don't think it is fair to our school children for their future educations to depend on what will be one of the largest election turn-outs in Amherst history... Unless, of course, folks want the over-ride to fail!! Enough ranting, Hilda G.

Laura Quilter said...

Hi Hilda @ 11:09 am --

You said: "I haven't heard any arguments that Pre-K, Kindergarten and First grade can't happen in each of THREE neighborhood schools. As said above, the best compromise solution is for FR and WW to share the footprint at the WW site as neighborhood schools and leave CF alone."

I agree that that would have been a good compromise but the School Committee chose NOT to do that. So the reconfiguration is what's on the ballot.

Sckened by admin in Pelham said...

What is the to prove they are under duress when they made that boat I mean can they revote? I mean is this a situation where school committee members can't nust do as please.. Or as theyvere pushed..regardless of what their constituents want? people that are not thinking about the children of this town. If children were able to stay with same school with their siblings I could sway but only if the traffic issue at both of those Strong Street with street lights.are aDdressed approved with town.That still does not answer how the traffic is going to work on that small lot at Wildwood with all the parents pick up their kids. That seems like a huge traffic mess and headache.