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WA Ghostwriter

The student news site of Westford Academy

WA Ghostwriter

The student news site of Westford Academy

WA Ghostwriter

Overrides: An informative breakdown

An+image+of+Westford+Academy.+An+override+would+allow+WPS+to+reduce+staff+and+service+cuts.
James Farley
An image of Westford Academy. An override would allow WPS to reduce staff and service cuts.

The Town of Westford is facing two different budget scenarios in Fiscal Year 2025 [FY25] based on whether or not an override is passed by a vote at Town Elections on May 7. To fully understand what an override is and what exactly it means for Westford, here are answers to frequently asked questions.

Q: What is a Proposition 2 1/2 override?

A: A Proposition 2 1/2 override would allow Westford to raise its yearly tax levy by more than 2.5%, which is the state limit. Often, overrides are considered as an option for towns when their expenses are increasing at a faster rate than the 2.5% tax increases. Through permanently raising taxes for residents, an override allows the town to increase revenue, and in turn, prevent potential cuts to services. Amidst Westford’s current deficit, an $8 million override request is being made.

Q: How is an override passed? 

A: An override is passed with a majority vote from Westford voters during the Town Elections. The vote on the override will be held at the Town Elections on May 7. To reach the majority ballot vote at Town Elections, the override first requires a majority vote at the Town Meeting on March 23.

Q: Why do towns use an override? 

A: Towns use an override to increase its operating budget. This would help the town avoid cuts to positions and services. By passing an override, towns can make up the money they are down, and avoid the loss of meaningful positions and services.

Q: How much does this override cost in Westford?

A: The override is an $8 million request. For every $1 million of the override, a median single-family home, which is assessed at $756,500, would be taxed $112.36.

Q: If the override does not pass, what does the situation look like for Westford’s services? 

A: The town would experience major reductions. These include the loss of 2 police officers, 2 firefighters, 1 dispatcher, 1 Community Wellness Coordinator, 1 Heavy Equipment Operator, 0.9 Full-Time Equivalent [FTE] Part-Time Library workers, and 0.4 FTE Department of Public Works Business Manager. There would be other effects on the town as well, including temporary closures at Rogers Fire Station, a reduction in the Community Wellness Program which provides mental health services, potential delays in road maintenance, and reduced operating hours for the J.V. Fletcher Library.

Q: If the override does not pass, what does the situation look like for Westford’s schools?

A: 70.2 positions in the Westford Public Schools would be cut. The major cuts within WPS would cause larger class sizes across the district, the removal of the general education reading elective at both Stony Brook and Blanchard, Kindergarten-Second Grade Literacy Specialists being cut from 6.0 to 3.0, the restructuring of instructional support leadership, an altered model of intervention at the elementary and middle schools, and special education transportation being cut.

Q: What is Westford’s history with overrides?

A: Since 2000, Westford has voted upon two override requests. Here is a quick breakdown of each:

In 2005, the town did not vote in favor of an override for the general operating budget or the school budget. The general operating budget override request had been $521,265, and did not pass, with a 3,049 – 2,319 vote. The school budget override request had been for $3 million, and failed to pass in a 3,225-2,155 vote.

In 2017, at Town Elections in May, Westford voted 2,147 – 1,920 in favor of a $1.6 million override request to supplement the school operating budget and help raise teacher salaries.

Q: What are the important dates to know?

A: December 18 and January 2: School Committee budget deliberations hearing.

January 16: School Committee tentative FY25 budget vote.

January 18: Joint meeting with School Committee, Finance Committee, and the Select Board.

March 25: Annual Town Meeting (a vote on if the override will be voted on is held).

May 7: Town-wide elections (the override will be voted on if it is voted onto the ballot).

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About the Contributor
James Farley, Editor-in-Chief
Hey, my name is James Farley, and I am a senior Editor-in-Chief for the WA Ghostwriter!  I love writing, and also have a passion for sports, so I am excited to incorporate these aspects of my life into my work here for the newspaper. Outside of school, I love spending time with my family and friends, going on vacations, and playing sports. I can’t wait for what’s in store this year with the Ghostwriter!

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