Although it’s rarely explained in news reports, the $11.4 million figure used when discussing Newton’s tax overrides, is an just estimate.

That’s because two of the theee ballot questions that will go before voters on March 12 are debt exclusion overrides. And by law (and due to the inexact science of estimating building projects) debt exclusion ballot questions don’t carry a dollar amount.

So while Question One asks for a specific $8.4 million increase in operating expenses, Mayor Setti Warren’s request of $1.3 million for Angier and $1.7 million for Cabot  are estimates. Both ballot questions include no specific amounts or, for that matter, any specifics.  Question Two and Question Three only ask voters permission to  “renovate or replace” the schools.

In this city and in this state, skepticism over the price of building projects is well founded.  It’s also the most convincing part of Moving Newton Forward‘s argument against Question Two and Three.

This is from an opinion column the “no-no-no” group wrote for today’s Globe…

Burlington recently built a new elementary school that ­resembled Cabot, Angier, and Zervas in terms of size and student enrollment. Yet the net cost for Burlington was ­between 35 and 50 percent less than the net proposed cost ­associated with any one of Newton’s three elementary schools slated for renovation or rebuilding.

If that’s not enough to make a taxpayer skeptical, the city has admitted that the estimated cost per school could rise. Given the skyrocketing costs of Newton North High School, this lack of a price guarantee makes Newton residents ­extremely nervous.

The “yes-yes-yes” group, Building Newton’s Future, counters in an on-line only piece on, saying..

The Massachusetts School Building Authority implemented a strict oversight process for all projects in which it participates. This includes safeguards for design and spending, such as final state approval of the project architect; a committee made up primarily of state officials with a few municipal representatives to oversee and closely scrutinize the project from start to finish; and checks and balances throughout the process to ensure the project remains within scope and budget.

But Building Newton’s Future co-chair Marcia Tabenken adds…

If either project were to run over budget, the city would have to make adjustments and find savings. The city cannot raise more money through the debt exclusions without voter approval.

All that said, I’m surprised this election has come down to “yes-yes-yes” vs. ‘no-n0-no” when in fact there’s a reasonable case for split voting.




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