The student news site of Westford Academy

WA Ghostwriter

The student news site of Westford Academy

WA Ghostwriter

The student news site of Westford Academy

WA Ghostwriter

Vote “Yes” for Westford: residents form override action committee

Deepa Gautam
A glimpse into some of the resources and information put out by the committee.

With the threat of budget cuts to town and school services looming over Westford, many students and residents have found themselves learning more about the town’s budget challenges. Among them is resident Nate Mackinnon, who, upon learning of the $8 million deficit, felt compelled to take action, chairing a ballot question committee.

For him, this entailed working together with other town members to form a ballot question committee, advocating for local awareness.Now, composed of almost fifty concerned parents, teachers, and community members, the group, known online as Vote YES for Westford, has been working to achieve just that.

As a whole, the group has one primary objective: to encourage Westford residents to vote in favor of a Proposition 2 ½ override at the upcoming town meeting, and in doing so, preserve major town and school services that are at risk of being cut. In executing the local awareness campaign, the group plans on utilizing a variety of outreach strategies, including social media posts, weekly newsletters, flyers, and yard signs. 

“At the end of the day, it’s a decision folks will have to make on their own but our job on this Override Action Committee is to make sure folks understand what’s at stake,” Mackinnon said.

For Mackinnon, as a Westford resident and parent of two young children, the possible cuts to schools in the case of a failed override in particular were ultimately what inspired him to help form the committee. 

“I moved to Westford because of the quality of the school system and the support the town has given to municipal services, and the incredible quality of life here that yields the important things that all of us care about. And so, I couldn’t sit by and idly watch,” Mackinnon said. “I felt that it was appropriate to dive in and roll up my sleeves and with this group, start to tackle this.”

Starting in early January, the committee began meeting weekly over Zoom to plan and execute several initiatives in the months leading up to town meeting. These plans include hosting coffee hours for any residents who want to learn more about the budget as well as delivering letters with information about the town meeting. Through their website, residents are also able to sign up for a weekly informative email or volunteer their time towards the effort. 

“As we’ve gone through this and as we’ve learned what the pressure points are, its been a huge, awesome moment for all of us because we’ve started to get even more energized about how important this is,” Mackinnon said. “In fact, status quo can only occur if we pass the levy limit and if we don’t, we’re facing major cuts.”

Through sharing information that is both reliable and accessible, the action group is working to help residents make a more informed choice, while also representing the voice of those advocating for an override. A majority of this information is shared on the group’s social media page, which is managed by Westford resident Jessica Collins, who is also a teacher at Abbot Elementary. 

“I have been focused on explaining what a lot of the numbers mean, why the contracts have such a big impact now,” Collins said. “Then, now that we’re going to get closer to a final override number, my posts will start to focus on what will be cut if this money doesn’t come through.”

In particular, both Collins and Mackinnon find themselves most concerned with cuts involving increasing class sizes and elementary interventionists in the case of a failed override. 

“I think that people who aren’t in the schools don’t always appreciate the difference between a classroom of 18 and a classroom of 25 and what that means for students,” Collins said. “[In addition], what those [interventionists] are providing is a really specific kind of teaching that’s not happening in the classroom.”

Mackinnon added that he believes the override vote will ultimately serve as an investment in WA and the town itself, noting the likelihood of property values decreasing in the case of a failed override.

“This is an investment in the future of Westford through our young people,” Mackinnon said. “I want my daughter and son to be able to feel very proud of the quality education they got from Westford Public Schools and not be sitting in overcrowded classrooms without the appropriate support because we couldn’t step up as a community and invest in our schools.”

Although the committee does not currently have plans to directly engage with students, Mackinnon encourages eligible students to register to vote in the town election and share their voice. 

“Any student who is eligible to vote in town, and hasn’t yet registered, they should do so right away, not only because it is your civic duty but also you have a voice,” Mackinnon said. “ I would say it’s also important for students to talk to their parents about this and and make sure they’re aware of it.”

With this in mind, the group also aims to share the impacts of a failed override for all residents at the town level. According to outreach chair, Jamie Holmes, the group the group also seeks to consider multiple demographics in town and their concerns. 

“We’re trying to just get the feedback from everybody that we can get it from in those demographics and making sure we are communicating main areas of concerns,” Holmes said. “I think a big part of this is the education of people understanding where their taxes go, people understanding that this is not a mismanagement of funds, but that it is something that many towns are going through right now.”

Although the committee is still in the process of turning these efforts into a reality, the committee ultimately hopes to see the override pass during both the annual town meeting on March 23rd and the ballot vote on May 7th. 

“There’s a two step hurdle here that the override requires,” Mackinnon said. “We’re prepared to do everything we can to educate the taxpayers and the citizens of Westford about what would happen if we don’t do this override and why it’s so tremendously important.”

View Comments (1)
More to Discover
About the Contributor
Deepa Gautam
Deepa Gautam, Editor-in-Chief
Hi! My name is Deepa and I am a junior Editor in Chief for the Ghostwriter! This is my third year on the paper and I joined because I love to read, write, and try new things. In my free time, I love watching movies, listening to music, trying new foods, and spending time with my family! :)

Comments (1)

All WA Ghostwriter Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • H

    Heather FitzFeb 13, 2024 at 9:31 am

    The kids should definitely talk to their parents and make sure they understand how an override vote impacts their family’s finances. Especially since these kids families are about to spend or borrow tens of thousands of dollars in college tuition for the next 4 years.