The word “override” has become a dirty word in many Massachusetts cities and towns these days – and rightfully so, in many cases.
That’s because, when it comes to municipal government, an override almost always refers to an override of the tax-limiting Proposition 21/2. And that’s usually for one of two reasons: It’s because the city or town is about to buy property or embark on a project its taxpayers could otherwise not afford – and probably still can’t — or it’s to fund budget hikes that are so steeped in contracted or other spending increases that the city or town cannot handle them without making deathly cuts elsewhere.
Thankfully, neither of those is the case in Manchester, where voters during the first night of their Annual Town Meeting approved bringing before voters a May referendum that will seek a debt exclusion override to take pay for taking control of a lingering property and carrying out an environmental cleanup on Pine Street, along the fringes of what was once a town burn dump.
While officials are still looking to nail down a specific dollar figure, it’s already clear that such a cleanup will help the town achieve two goals. It should enable Manchester to meet the demands of a 2014 cleanup deadline imposed by the state’s Department of Environmental Protection, and it will open the door to converting the properties into a viable site for commercial or industrial use — both of which would bring in new tax revenues for the town.
In this case, then, an override doesn’t stand for an emergency measure to cover excess spending; it does, in fact, loom as a legitimate investment that should yield revenue for the town down the line.
Town Meeting voters made the right call Monday night — and voters would do well to back the proposal when election time rolls around as well.