Members of The Wellesley Club, a civic organization whose beginnings go back to the late 19th century, hosted town leaders on Monday night to get the latest on big issues as we head toward next week’s Annual Town Meeting—the first to be held in person in 3 years.
We were grateful to be invited as guests to the event, which took place at Wellesley Country Club. Though imagine our brief confusion and disappointment when we found out that the meeting topic of Town Affairs Night wasn’t actually about those kinds of affairs.
The night’s speakers were:
- Doug Smith, vice chair of the Advisory Committee
- Lise Olney, chair of the Select Board
- Leda Eizenberg, chair of the School Committee
They shared updates on a slate of hot issues in town, all of which we’ve covered at some point, from the stormwater enterprise fund to school building projects to a proposed equity audit and the latest plans to develop housing.
Smith, who started off with an explanation of what the Advisory Committee does (see also “What the heck is Advisory Committee anyway?“) got the biggest laugh of the night when he assured the crowd near the end of his presentation that there will be “no pickleball” articles at Town Meeting. He also earned the biggest groan when he mentioned an article to increase dog licenses from $12 to $15. During his talk, Smith lauded town departments for coming in so close to budget guidelines, praised the Department of Public Works’ approach to handling the PFAS water contamination challenge, and celebrated the town’s current financial strength.
Select Board Chair Olney described the “somewhat challenging and uncertain economic environment” that the board faced during this budget cycle given the ongoing impact of COVID, supply chain issues, inflation, and higher interest rates. But she noted that projections for local receipts and new growth have risen so far during fiscal year ’23. Departments were asked to keep budgets within a 3% increase over the previous year, which she acknowledged has been challenging as they seek to find and retain good employees in a competitive labor market. The town has taken steps to address the labor situation in part by by working with Wellesley’s Human Resources Board on cost of living adjustments, and has budgeted for new expenses, such as those to strengthen the town’s cybersecurity.
School Committee Chair Eizenberg reviewed the latest on the proposed budget, ongoing labor negotiations with the teachers’ union, and development of a new strategic plan. Strategic investments, meanwhile, have been made in areas such as adding AP courses and reducing student fees. Harkening back to last year’s Annual Town Meeting and Article 44, focused on academic excellence, Eizenberg pointed to changes the school system has made in response to getting “a lot of feedback.” This has included budgeting for smaller math classes and more coaching at the middle school as well as a Spanish class for heritage speakers.
Before the night was over, the Club revealed its new roster of officers and directors including President Sara Jane Shanahan, whose mother Barbara Shanahan served as president 20 years ago, marking a first for this organization steeped in history.
Learn more about Wellesley Club membership.