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Thread: Isnít this Exciting?

  1. #16
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    Nov 2005
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    FYI, the High School Building Committee "What's New" web page is updated with useful information, including renderings and the HSBC 9/21 presentation to the School Committee.

    School Committee and HSBC members attended last evening's Finance Committee article hearing (at which the HS article was outlined) as well as the Board of Selectmen meeting (at which the FinCom requested that the HS project be placed on the ballot for 11/17; Special Town Meeting 11/18).

  2. #17
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    Apr 2009
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    117

    Default Just a typical day in town

    Jeff, you always say I have no basis for saying, ďOur leadership mismanagesĒ, but I knew I wouldnít have to wait long for examples (even though I believe thereís a fine and illustrious history along these lines, I did scribble down a whole page of past things we could argue about).

    In yesterdayís Crier about the town center, turns out thereís two ďimportantĒ (the lawyer says) documents missing from the developerís filings of 2006 that could impact the way the development unfolds. ďWeíll have to wait to see if theyíre importantĒ (the board says). Paperwork missing? Town lawyers, administrators? What again are we paying them ďplus 100kĒ for?

    You know one of my bugaboos, is the lack of actual financial information given by the town, and when any is provided, itís error prone. In another article about the new high schoolís effect on taxes they have FinCom Chair, Sam Peper saying taxes will go up, ď$46 (FY 11) rising to $106 (FY 13) per $1,000 of house valuationĒ. This must be a mistake. The next paragraph gives examples of taxes on a $650k home which if the above !,000 was actually 100,000 itíd be close, but not exact. So Iím left dazed, canít be sure whatís what. People should just assume that of course theyíre going to pay an extra $1,000 a year for the school, and everyone, if theyíre not now will soon be paying $10k per year in taxes. Whether itís the newspaper's confusion or Mr. Peper's, itís all so typical.

    As a taxpayer who makes almost no use of town services, all I want is a feeling that Iím getting some value for my dollar. And that the leadership is trying to give me more value tomorrow than today. Iíve never got this feeling. The townís leadership gives no actual financial imformation to the townspeople, and you say I should assume everythingís fine till proved otherwise. I think itís just the opposite. If everything was hunky-dory, theyíd show us the info so we would go ďgood jobĒ. To me, no financial information, combined with mistakes and confusion, leaves me with no confidence (especially when I look at my page of 25 years of things screwed-up and I believe over-paid for).

    donBustin@verizon.net

  3. #18
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    I don't know whether it was a Finance Committee member who misspoke, or a newspaper reporter who "miswrote," but my understanding is that the tax impacts are, as you figured out, per $100,000 in assessed value.

    That error aside, though, it sounds as if the Finance Committee was doing exactly what you suggested the town isn't doing--namely, supplying financial information. The complete presentation of the Finance Committee to the Board of Selectmen is available "front and center" on the Town's web site here.

    More generally, the budget process is conducted in public each year, resulting in two main financial documents (the Warrant and the School Budget Book) with substantial supporting detail.

    Could you be a bit more specific regarding financial information you're missing?

  4. #19
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    Apr 2009
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    My apologies for not getting back to the many important things I want to respond to, but this country boy, it being fall, has too much to do, and so begins to long for the quiet of winterÖ I will get back to it all (maybe).

    The ECC

    Quick note about how the townís lack of progress with the Electronic Communications Committeeís recommendations are symptomatic, to me, of whatís wrong with government in general. The town has some bureaucratic technicality that stalls the whole process. Perhaps they want to? And nothing happens. Truth is that if the town wanted people to be informed, the old web site would work, and it would show that they were trying. I find it incomprehensible that I can not find a link to the HSBCís progress on the townís web site. Incomprehensible!

    When you look at this eNews web site, Iíd say Kim does a great job, all by herself, no resources, no administration, no town monies. A great discussion forum and unlimited potential too, all a citizen needs to start to become informed/engaged. I for one, think that we people could do a lot worse than starting to think about eNews as the townís, citizen directed, source of information. And the town could do worse then pay eNews to do the job they canít or wonít do.

    Iíd pay 1% (5% ?) of my taxes to an independent information source about town. Might you?

    donBustin@verizon.net

  5. #20
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    While they are far from obvious paths, there are several ways to get from www.wayland.ma.us to the HSBC page.

    You can get there directly from the School Committee's home page. And, I've asked that links be added to the Wayland and WPS home pages.

    Don, to your broader point about the Wayland web site, I suggest that it's the structure rather than the intent of Town Government that impedes progress. As you note, Kim does a fantastic job managing Wayland eNews. She does this because (a) she devotes an incredible amount of her time to the effort and (b) she has a small board (3 members) that gives her substantial leeway to do so.

    While the School Committee can't claim to do nearly the job that Wayland eNews does, we can at least be fairly responsive given that we have direct access and require approval from a mere 5 members.

    The WPS site is certainly more "sprawling" (5 schools plus the central office), but nonetheless has improved considerably over time despite there not being a unifying and user-friendly authoring system.

    Once we start talking about the Wayland site, the number of players (and rules) increases significantly, making for a more challenging problem. I'm not saying that it can't be done, nor that it shouldn't be done--just that we need an "official" champion (perhaps that's the ECC, perhaps the BOS and other independent boards), a crisp charge, a skilled person or entity to do the work, and most likely some funding. The "makeover" will take considerable time, but doesn't have to be done all at once. It's a great project to undertake, but not for the faint of heart ... or time.

  6. #21
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    The current website's technology is definitely part of the problem. It is hard to use, and thus, its use is limited to a small number of people - who are burdened with many other tasks. It is non-trivial to keep the site up to date, especially for so many boards.

    That said, part of the rest of the problem is the drive among individual boards to keep their sites full of current information. But most of that work would need to be done by volunteers, who all have other stuff on their plate. A mindset change is needed to make that effort more important. But that's hard to require when the technology is in the way.

    A new website is a priority, but just jumping to implement it would be unwise. Whatever we move to will require time, training and money (not a lot of the latter, but certainly much of the former two - the time being required from people who are already stretched. So when we jump, let's get it right.

    This will happen, and still in relatively short order. A little patience will be worth your while.

  7. #22
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    Nov 2005
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    Quote Originally Posted by don Bustin View Post
    When you look at this eNews web site, Iíd say Kim does a great job, all by herself, no resources, no administration, no town monies. A great discussion forum and unlimited potential too, all a citizen needs to start to become informed/engaged. I for one, think that we people could do a lot worse than starting to think about eNews as the townís, citizen directed, source of information. And the town could do worse then pay eNews to do the job they canít or wonít do.

    Iíd pay 1% (5% ?) of my taxes to an independent information source about town. Might you?
    Make your checks payable to... just kidding. :-)

  8. #23
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    Nov 2005
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    To put 1% in perspective, the Community Preservation Act amount of 1.5% added to the tax bill represented $640k last year (FY09, matched with $400k from the state). Kim, you mean you'd take a pay cut to $480k (Don's 1%) number to run Wayland eNews? If you need an equal partner, I'm there--let's split it, $240k each.

  9. #24
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    Nov 2005
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    Guess I neglected to do the math... yes, if the town would pay me 1% of its revenues to run WaylandeNews, I'd start drafting my resignation papers from my day job (To Tom: don't worry, it's not likely...)

  10. #25
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    Nov 2005
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    and no thanks, Jeff, I think I can do handle it by myself. :-)

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