Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Top Myths about the Overrides

MYTH 1: If I don’t use the library or the transfer station, or the COA, it won’t hurt me if they close.
THE FACTS: Libraries level the playing field. We have a growing income inequity in America; the gap between the richest and poorest citizens gets wider every year. By making all its resources equally available to all members of its community, regardless of income, class, or other factors, the library levels the playing field. This strengthens the whole community and improves living conditions for us all. The closing of the Transfer Station could increase the likelihood of roadside dumping and reduce the opportunities for recycling.  The Town would risk environmental degradation.  The loss of streetlights could allow crime to increase and the reduction in town employees would most likely result in shorter hours of operation and longer waits for town services.  Seniors who rely on the Council on Aging would have to find help, if available, elsewhere.
MYTH 2: I can just use the Athol Library.
THE FACTS: Orange residents would not be able to borrow materials from Athol and most other area libraries.  According to the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners, when a town’s public library is not certified because of closing or not meeting standards:
1. The noncertified municipality and its library will not receive any State Aid to Public Libraries monies (M.G.L. c.78, s.19A).
2. Libraries in certified municipalities are not required to lend library materials to the library in the noncertified municipality (605 CMR 4.01 (6a)).
3. Libraries in certified municipalities are not required to extend reciprocal library services, beyond in-library use of their materials, to residents of the noncertified municipality (605 CMR 4.01 (6b)).
4. The library will not receive support through the Small Libraries in Networks Program.
5. The municipality is not eligible to apply for funds under the Public Library Construction Program (605 CMR 6.05 (1)(c)), and any existing grant will be invalidated because the library must maintain eligibility throughout the construction process in order to receive grant funds (605 CMR 6.09(7)(b)).
6. The library will not be eligible to apply for grants under the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) program.

MYTH 3: The override is irreversible.
THE FACTS: It's true that unlike a debt exclusion, the override won't automatically end.  However it is not true that the increase once passed must continue forever.  If the override passes, there are a couple of ways it would be reversible; First, the town meeting could vote not to appropriate the money, either this year or in a future year. There is no requirement that Town Meeting pass a budget that raises taxes up to the limit of what is authorized by the override. Also, there is a process called an underride, where in future years town citizens could vote in a special election to reverse the override in a similar way to which it was passed. Details below from the Mass general laws:
In a city or town, if a majority of the local appropriating authority or the people by local initiative procedure shall so require, there shall be a special election called in order to submit a question to the voters as to whether said city or town should be required to assess taxes by a specified amount below that amount allowed pursuant to this section. The question submitted to the voters shall be worded as follows:--
  "Shall the (city/town) of _____ be required to reduce the amount of real estate and personal property taxes to be assessed for the fiscal year beginning July first, nineteen hundred and _____ by an amount equal to $_____?
YES_____ NO_____''.
  If a majority of the persons voting on the question shall vote "yes'', the limit on total taxes assessed shall be decreased to the percentage so voted for that fiscal year.

MYTH 4: People can just use Mahar’s library.
THE FACTS:  Mahar’s library is designed to support the education of Mahar’s students.  They do not have materials for the general public.  Their library is not accessible to the public during school hours due to security concerns, and the library is not staffed other times.  They have neither the materials nor the staff to serve non-Mahar younger children, families, or senior citizens.

MYTH 5: The Town could use the override money for something else
THE FACTS: For Fiscal Year 2011, the Town could only collect and appropriate the revenues authorized by the override for the purpose stated in the election ballot question.  Other uses would not be permitted by law.

MYTH 6: The cost of the override would be greater than what I would have to pay for alternative services.
THE FACTS: The cost of private trash hauling equals or exceeds the average cost of all 4 override questions. It costs less to vote yes!  Indirect environmental costs would occur, but are difficult to quantify.  The most recent return on investment figures show that the Orange Public Libraries deliver $1.3 million is services to the Town per year.  Per capita, that is roughly $167 return on an proposed investment of $33.62.  That's less than the cost of two hardback books!

MYTH 7:  The library would get a big budget increase as a result of the override.
THE FACTS: The 2009 Annual Town Meeting approved a library budget of slightly over $280,000 for Fiscal Year 2010.  This was reduced at a subsequent Special Town Meeting when the Town's financial crisis became more apparent.  The amount on the override question id $262,230.00.  This would represent a 7% reduction from our original 2010 budget, and less than a 2% increase over  the current reduced budget.  The amount requested is also the bare minimum required to meet state requirements to receive state certification and state aid.

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