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Information about December 2 Election

posted Nov 27, 2017, 6:46 PM by Tim Piwowar
At the November 27, 2017 meeting of the Billerica School Committee, the Committee voted unanimously to distribute information to the community about the upcoming election on Saturday, December 2.  This information can be found in the attached document, or can be found in full text below:

November 27, 2017



Members of the Billerica Community:


On Saturday, December 2, a special election will be held in the Town of Billerica regarding Article 10, a budget amendment article from the Fall 2017 Billerica Town Meeting.  At the Fall Town Meeting, Article 10 passed with a vote of 126 in favor and 48 opposed.  However, provisions in the Town Charter provide for a special election to be called to vote on an action of Town Meeting if certain provisions are met.


The Billerica School Committee has asked me to provide information to the parent, guardian, and greater Billerica community to help ensure that citizens are appropriately informed about the December 2 election. 


Back in February 2015, I wrote in a similar manner to the community about the high school project, and entitled one of the sections, “Importance of Factual Information”.  Within that section, I wrote that “if misinformation is spread in the community, it should be addressed as soon as possible.”  Please allow this memo to serve a similar purpose as it relates to the December 2 election.


What does a “Yes” or “No” vote mean on December 2?


A “Yes” vote means a vote for Article 10, affirming the action of elected representatives of Town Meeting.


A “No” vote means a vote against Article 10, reversing the action of elected representatives of Town Meeting.


What is contained within the budget amendment in Article 10?


In total, Article 10 increased the Fiscal Year 2018 budget by $269,856 in a budget of over $141 million by making the following changes:


·         $100,000 to pay for Medicare expenses

·         $100,000 to pay for grounds equipment for the cemetery, parks, and trees department

·         $29,856 to fund two positions for the cemetery, parks, and trees department starting in April

·         $25,000 to pay for the special State Senate election held on July 25, 2017

·         $15,000 to pay for contractual obligations for Town Hall employees


What is the impact of a “no” vote on December 2?


The Billerica Town Manager’s Office produced slides with information about the December 2 special election that stated the impact of reversing Article 10 included:


·         Reversing Article 10 will put the Town in a deficit spending position which is viewed unfavorably by credit rating agencies at a time when the Town is borrowing significant funds for capital projects.


·         Defaulting on Union Contract Obligations could result in legal action against the Town and legal costs for the Town


·         Reversing capital and personnel costs for Cemetery Parks and Trees will stop the commitment of additional resources to the Cemetery, Parks, and Trees Department.


Is this type of budget amendment out of the ordinary?


No.  This has been a standard practice at Town Meeting for many years, and typical items funded through the amendments are shared costs (e.g., Medicare, debt service), personnel changes, contractual obligations, capital, and other one-time expenditures.  The list below shows the amounts of the amendments over the previous five Town Meetings, none of which went to a town-wide ballot question:


·         October 2016: $947,300

·         October 2015: $75,000

·         October 2014: $447,176

·         October 2013: $2,293,449

·         October 2012: $1,300,000

(Source: http://town.billerica.ma.us/161/Town-Meeting)


What does Article 10 have to do with fields and/or youth sports?


The funding for capital equipment and two part-year positions in the Cemetery, Parks, and Trees Department is the first step in a multi-year plan to upgrade the level of care and maintenance of town and school playing fields across the Town.  This plan involves the separation of the current Cemetery, Parks, and Trees Department into a separate Cemetery Department and a Parks and Trees Department. 


This newly created Parks and Trees Department will be designed to have sufficient resources to support the maintenance of high-quality, and equitable playing fields across the community.  During the period of transition, town employees would work alongside youth organizations to ensure that high standards for playability are maintained.


For more information about the specifics of this plan, please visit the Town of Billerica website at http://town.billerica.ma.us/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=379 and the associated slides at https://www.town.billerica.ma.us/DocumentCenter/View/7106.


Will the town charge permit fees for field use?  Will this increase the fees for my child to play youth sports?


During the first phase, there will be no change to the fee structure for field use.  Starting in Fiscal Year 2020, the Town is planning to charge permit fees for field use; however, the fees are only designed to replace the cost previously borne by youth organizations for field maintenance.  The ultimate goal is that none of this expense should be passed on to Billerica youth sports participants.


Will this plan increase my taxes?


As the goal is not to increase cost for Billerica youth sports participants, any additional costs would be absorbed by the tax levy.  The worst case scenario projects a tax impact on the median household of between $9.00 and $10.00 annually; however, as there improved care of all fields in Town will create an opportunity for greater use, this increase should be offset by increased revenue from their use.



Why is the question of fields combined with other items for the December 2 election?


By the Town Charter, the ballot question for the election must be in the same form that was voted upon at Town Meeting.  Town Meeting voted the budget amendment as a whole, and so the December 2 election must be presented in the same way.


Does Article 10 immediately turn over the responsibility of school fields to the Town?


No.  The Billerica School Department will continue to work with officials in the town manager’s office to develop a plan that the Committee will vote upon as part of the development of the Fiscal Year 2019 budget development process prior to the Spring 2018 Town Meeting.


What is the Billerica School Committee’s position on Article 10 and the field maintenance plan?


At their October 30 meeting, the Billerica School Committee unanimously passed a resolution in support of Article 10:


Resolution of Billerica School Committee

Passed 5-0 on October 30, 2017



WHEREAS the Billerica School Committee expresses a desire to improve the quality and usability of playing fields and grounds throughout the Town of Billerica;


WHEREAS the Billerica School Committee is committed to working collaboratively with municipal government to ensure equitable access to high quality fields for all members of the Billerica community;


WHEREAS the Billerica School Committee is committed to ensuring that any plan regarding the consolidation of field maintenance and care must be done thoughtfully and deliberately and must maintain prioritized access to playing fields for  school educational and athletic use;


WHEREAS the Billerica School Committee supports Article 10 from the Fall 2017 Town Meeting as an essential first step to the development and implementation of any such plan;


WHEREAS the Billerica School Committee remains committed to the care and custody of fields currently within its jurisdiction until such time as any new plan is implemented;




1.       Work with municipal governmental officials to develop a detailed plan that would including turning over the custody and care of fields to the Parks and Trees Department on January 1, 2019


2.       With the implementation of such plan, commit to transferring money from the school department grounds budget to the municipal Parks and Trees Department budget


3.       Vote on the acceptance of the plan as part of the FY19 budget development process, prior to the Spring 2018 Town Meeting


Tim Piwowar,
Nov 27, 2017, 6:46 PM