UPDATED Nov. 10: Unofficial election results Wednesday, Nov. 8, show both special-election ballot questions as having passed Tuesday, Nov. 7.
Question 1, the property-tax override, is listed, on a clickable tab on a page of the town of Arlington website: "YES 7950 NO 4964."
Question 2, “Means Tested Senior Citizen Property Tax Exemption," tax relief for low-income senior citizens, is shown this way on the tab: "YES 10874 NO 1944"
That specific website page can be viewed here>>
A town document that shows breakdown by precinct demonstrates that only two of the 21 precincts -- 13 and 18 -- had more "no" votes than "yes" votes on Question 1. Almost certainly, opponents were disappointed with the election's outcome. One of them, Mark Kaepplein, a Town Meeting member, had previously told YourArlington that he would vote no. Part of his reasoning, conveyed before Tuesday, was as follows: "Having an override approved prior to negotiations with unions puts the town in a weak bargaining position; they will ask for more. This seems precisely what proponents of the tax hike want. They want teachers to get a bigger, more generous contract next August."
Select Board Chair Eric Helmuth had this to say Wednesday: “I’m thrilled that the voters have once again expressed their strong support for preserving our current town and school services, and for making smart investments for the future. This vote will not only head off painful service cuts, but [it] will also enable the town to raise educator pay to be more competitive with [that of] similar districts, help vulnerable students who are falling behind and make additional investments in pedestrian infrastructure and trash collection."
He added, “I am also grateful that the voters overwhelmingly supported Question 2 to provide property tax relief to the seniors who need it most."
Finance Committee member Jennifer Susse earlier spent six years on the School Committee. She commented Wednesday, “One of the things that’s happened in the last few years is that we’ve gone to the voters before running out of money. That makes the stakes feel less high to people." Starting with the 2019 override, she said, there's been a commitment to funding the five-year plan for the schools, which continues with the successful passage of this override.
“On the Finance Committee, several people expressed that we’d never done this before -- never added to the budget [rather than just passed an operating override to maintain services]. That’s not quite true, but this was a significant vote," in her view, because it is intended mostly to raise salaries for teachers and staff, rather than add positions.
The cost to the average homeowner
If official results confirm preliminary ones, the property-tax increase, which town officials say will raise $7 million annually, will take effect as of July 1, 2024. The owner of the average single-family home, with an assessed value of $912,386, therefore would, starting that fiscal year, see an additional tax burden of $484 per year, or about $40 more per month, every year going forward.
Town officials said that voter turnout was about 40 percent of all of the town's registered voters, at 12,947 votes.
“Yes” votes were more thunderous four years ago, in 2019. In June of that year, 76 percent of voters approved a debt exclusion to fund the rebuilding of Arlington High School -- and 68 percent approved a $5.5 million operating override.
Polls were open Tuesday, Nov. 7, from 7 a.m. through 8 p.m.; some people chose to vote by mail and/or to drop off ballots at drop boxes at the three locations provided: Town Hall, 730 Mass. Ave; ACMi cable television studio, 85 Park Ave; Fox Library, 75 Mass. Ave.
Basic facts on both questions
Question 1 asked whether the town can assess an additional $7 million in real estate and personal property taxes beginning in fiscal 2025: July 1, 2024. This amounts to 53 cents for each $1,000 of assessed value. The town posted a tool showing the impact on the tax bill of the average condominium, single-family, two-family or three-family home. For instance, the average home with an assessed value of $912,386 would see an additional tax burden of $484 per year, or about $40 per month.
The original intention was for the override to take effect in fiscal 2024, starting July 1, 2023 – but, instead, July 1, 2024, was inadvertently listed as the effective date when the Select Board voted in June to put the override before voters. Overrides are not uncommon; since Proposition 2 ½ passed statewide in 1980, Massachusetts municipalities have been allowed to increase their total property tax revenues by no more than 2.5 percent each year; however, to get around that limitation, a successful override election is required.
A public override vote, on a date set by a given municipality's Select Board, allows local government to ask taxpayers for funds beyond this threshold. Arlington's last override, for $5.5 million, was in 2019. Arlington voted that year to fund the rebuilding of Arlington High School. Previous requests to raise taxes were in 2016 – a debt exclusion, to pay for renovating Thompson and Gibbs schools, and for an AHS rebuild feasibility study and Minuteman support. In June 2011, voters approved a $6.5 million tax override to support town and school operations by 860 votes.
Question 2 asked about means-tested tax relief for senior citizens whose homes are worth less than the median assessed value.A town web page has detail on who likely would qualify and for how much relief.
(Editor's note: Please see major addition made Oct. 28, 2023, at the end of that article.)
This news summary by YourArlington freelance writer Catherine Brewster was published Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2023, and was updated that evening with comments from local officials. It was updated Nov. 9, 2023, to add a link to a town document that shows a precinct breakdown of the votes. It was updated Nov. 10, 2023, to include comments from override opponent Mark Kaepplein.
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