EDITORIAL: Westford election offers fresh change
The Lowell Sun
Updated: 05/01/2017 07:28:31 AM EDT
No matter which candidates win in Westford’s municipal election, one thing is for certain: The town will undergo a major transformation of new faces, voices and perspectives in local government.
The Tuesday, May 2 election is guaranteed to result in the election of two new members to the Board of Selectmen and School Committee, respectively.
It’s a positive sign that residents see the value and importance of running for local office. Now it’s up to voters to turn out and make the choices that will benefit the town.
Westford is hitting its stride and also feeling the growing pains.
It’s seen a great deal of economic growth over the past five years, fueled by commercial and residential building projects. Still, the question remains: Is Westford losing its smalltown feel and rural character? Is it growing too fast? And where is the additional tax revenue from new growth being spent?
Westford is a very desirable community with some looming challenges.
It’s difficult to understand that despite the economic vigor and prosperity, the School Committee is seeking an operations override of $1.6 million to fund negotiated wage increases for teachers’ salaries.
Whether teachers deserve a pay raise is not the issue in The Sun’s view.
Our main concern is the funding mechanism being used to achieve it. Utilizing an override vote to fund salary increases is bad policy and sets a bad precedent.
The obvious consequence is that it opens the door to similar requests from other collective bargaining units. What’s not so obvious, however, is that it creates a crutch for town officials who are expected to practice sound budgeting principles and plan accordingly for contractual obligations.
Override supporters say Westford teachers’ salaries are below the regional norm, and the funding will help close the gap and serve to retain quality staff.
So what happens when the next contract is due?
Shoving $1.6 million down the taxpayers’ throat is hard to swallow. The Sun rejects the override and urges voters to do the same.
* In the Board of Selectmen’s race, The Sun endorses Dennis Galvin and Elizabeth Almeida in a three-way race for the two vacant seats available.
Galvin is a consummate professional in all he does, has effectively served on the Planning Board, and is an ardent promoter of government transparency.
Almeida is a newcomer to politics and offers a fresh, positive outlook. She’s built a wealth of admirers for her civic engagement and visionary work at Fat Moon Farms.
* Voters also will select two new School Committee members among three candidates. The Sun endorses Megan Eckroth and Gloria Miller. They have made strong points about enhancing the system’s top-flight science and technology programs, improving district communications with parents, and holding down class sizes.