Hear from Colette
on the Issues
With restrictions on physical gatherings, meet the candidates events have gone virtual. Take some time to hear from candidates and read their written statements. Each forum is less than an hour long.
Swellesley Report Q&A
What is your background and what qualifies you for this position?
The Board of Selectmen is the Town’s executive body with significant fiduciary responsibilities. By training, I am a Chartered Accountant (the UK equivalent of a CPA) and worked for twelve years as an auditor with PWC in the UK and USA. I am serving my third year on Wellesley’s Audit Committee and am the current chair. I have also been a Town Meeting Member since 2018. Running for election as a Town Meeting Member and seeking an appointment on the Audit Committee were purposeful steps I took in 2018 to gain a better understanding of Wellesley’s town government and its overall global financial picture.
I have volunteered for years in the community with several organizations including, but not limited to, Sprague PTO, Central Council of PTOs, The Teen Center, Sustainable Wellesley and Wellesley High School PTSO. Since 2006, I have acted as a neighborhood advocate in the redevelopment of Linden Square. This engagement was my introduction to Wellesley’s town government and through this ongoing work I have learned how to make our residents’ voices heard by the various town boards and how to effect change within Wellesley’s complex government structure.
My background in finance, knowledge of Wellesley’s particular financial situation through the Audit Committee, and experience of Wellesley’s town government prepare me well to join the Board. My personal style of engagement is collaborative, polite, persistent and reasonable - something I think we can all appreciate.
The Wellesley business district has faced challenges recently, as evidenced by several empty storefronts. How can the Board of Selectmen and the Town further support existing businesses and encourage new ones to come into Wellesley?
Wellesley’s business community is facing unprecedented challenges. Our town has shown creativity and flexibility in supporting businesses by installing sanitizing stations, helping restaurants utilize outdoor spaces for dining, eliminating parking charges, working with the Community Fund for Wellesley to source meals for our vulnerable population in partnership with our local restaurants, and obtaining a grant from the Massachusetts Department of Transport to establish a “mobile mini parklet” in areas where restaurants do not have easy access to outdoor seating. This tapestry of creative ideas has been critical in supporting the business community and we should continue to extend these efforts. Town Meeting recently approved $50,000 from traffic and parking funds for use in improving amenities in Wellesley Square - the timing is perfect to apply those funds to help make downtown more vibrant and welcoming to shoppers and new businesses. Other simple ideas include encouraging local artists to fill empty storefronts, working the Department of Public Works to spruce up plantings, and including QR code surveys of what types of shops and businesses local residents would like to see come to town. Shopping events like “July Jubilation” and “Mom's Day Out” have traditionally been very successful. While we cannot have single day, large gatherings, I would support a “shop local, support our businesses” push after school starts to jump start a recovery for local retailers. A successful model to promote local businesses this fall could form a basis for supporting businesses again in the key shopping period between Thanksgiving and New Year.
Economic hardship is being felt across Massachusetts. Neighboring towns have cut liquor licence fees, established small grants for businesses to cope with COVID related costs, and opened up public spaces in creative ways. We should look to what has been successful in other towns and consider if those ideas would work for Wellesley.
How can Wellesley more effectively engage in acting on the concerns of its residents of diverse backgrounds?
The first step in acting is listening to the concerns, understanding them, and therefore knowing where Wellesley needs to focus efforts for change in order to become a more welcoming community. Several grassroots organizations have been voicing the concerns of our residents. Most recently, Wake up Wellesley met with the Board of Selectmen to discuss the group’s efforts and the main takeaways from their work. At that meeting the Board shared that Wellesley had recently completed a grant application to the Metrowest Area Planning Council to join a pilot program called the Racial Equity Municipal Action Plan. This program would help us identify needs specific to Wellesley, and develop a plan to take concrete steps towards racial equity. If we are not successful in obtaining this grant, I would support allocating resources to ensure this important work still goes ahead. I would also support the creation of a diversity and equity steering committee to act as a resource to town boards for developing and implementing strategies to advance diversity initiatives.
A second important step involves effective communications strategies, both to receive feedback and to share with residents the initiatives we undertake as a town. Through the Town’s communications manager, we have recently broadened the modes of communication we employ, but this is an ever-changing landscape - especially for younger residents. Again, the recent Wake up Wellesley conversation highlighted opportunities to engage our students and younger residents in town government. I would fully support involving student interns in our communications strategy, offering “Town Government 101” training aimed at high school and college aged students and outreach specifically targeted to new residents to help explain how our complex town government works.
How can Wellesley manage the financial implications of the pandemic going forward? Already a plan has been put into place to cut Wellesley's capital spending 25% across the board. In addition, some Free Cash Reserves money has been tapped to cover items such as public safety and snow removal. What else can be done to manage the financial implications of COVID-19?
Wellesley is fortunate to have seasoned top level management in its executive director, finance director and treasurer. We must leverage their expertise and the sound financial infrastructure we have worked so hard to develop into a best in class asset for our town.
Immediately upon recognizing the financial implications of the pandemic, our town’s financial and management leadership teams put in place cash capital spending cuts and reduced income projections to ready us for a challenging time ahead. We also have CARES Act funds and some state funds specifically designated for the school department, that can be used to defray COVID-19 related expenses. The selectmen's office and the school department have been working closely to utilize these funds fully and not leave a penny on the table.
In listening to recent presentations by the Massachusetts Municipal Association, the general consensus is that the anticipated governor's budget will leave state aid flat for 2020. If that is the case, this flat funding, along with the steps taken already in our budgeting process, prepares us well for the 2020 budget cycle. We should anticipate challenges in fiscal 2021.
Structurally, 87% of Wellesley’s assessed property valuation is residential (source: MA Dept of Revenue). This gives us stability in our main source of funds, as real estate taxes make up close to 70% of the Town’s revenue. We need to monitor ongoing tax collections and projections for state aid in 2021. We do expect some growth in real estate taxes as approved 40B and 40R housing projects move into the development stage. Other, non real estate tax revenue sources (like parking fees, excise fees and meals taxes) will need careful analysis as we make 2021 budget projections. Our larger town departments, especially schools, need more specificity on expected operational costs which can only be gained as we gather experience this fall. When these numbers are known with more clarity, the process of sharing resources between our town departments can really be sharpened. Our robust capital improvement plan will take a strong commitment from Town Meeting and town residents to pass required debt exclusions.
In the most basic terms, we have to identify the “must have” versus “nice to have” services we can fund with the income we have. Making this judgement requires the BOS to understand what services residents most want the town to continue to provide. As much as possible, we should continue to offer the high level of services our residents have come to value and expect.
We must continue to employ good financial practices, matching one-off funding with one-off expenses wherever possible (like using CARES Act funds to cover COVID-specific expenses). We should also lobby for remaining CARES Act funds to be allowed as income replacement, as happened with similar aid after the financial crash in 2008. Overall, this challenge must be met by working collaboratively across all town boards, and engaging in strong financial management practices.
How should voters reach you if they want more information?
Voters can reach me at email@example.com and I would be happy to have a conversation by phone or a (socially distant) in person meeting. I have found these opportunities to engage with town residents, business owners, board members and department heads have been immensely helpful in preparing to run for this election, and, ultimately, for the job as selectperson, should I be elected. At last count I have had over 150 in depth conversations with voters about what matters in Wellesley and what people are looking for in a BOS member. I look forward to continuing those conversations and I encourage residents to reach out to me.
League of Women Voters
Watch the league of women voters forum hosted on August 6th 2020 Topics covered include:
Introductions followed by Q&A:
How do you bring people together when compromise is necessary?
The fiscal impacts of COVID 19 on Wellesley?
Housing priorities including Tailby and Railroad lots?
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion?
How can we make the arts a more vital part of the community?
Columbus day and Indigenous peoples day - ballot question
Colette's responses to the LOWV Q&A:
Why are you running for the Board of Selectmen?
I love living in Wellesley and feel fortunate to raise my family here. I have been involved in Town matters since my husband (a lifelong resident) and I bought our home over twenty years ago. To be an effective member of the Board requires financial acumen, an understanding of Wellesley and its complex Town government, and a collaborative disposition. I possess all these qualities and would like to combine my passion for Wellesley and my extensive civic experience to help make our town the best it can be. I am eager to help navigate the challenging times ahead as we grapple with the effects of the global pandemic while pursuing long term strategic goals, such as rebuilding schools and developing more diverse housing stock.
What do you consider the top three challenges we face as a town? What would you do to address these challenges?
Manage the effects of the pandemic while maintaining, as much as possible, the high quality services that residents have come to value and appreciate. We have to facilitate a safe reopening of schools, support businesses as they emerge from unprecedented disruption.
Listen to our residents’ experiences on diversity and inclusion, and find ways to ensure all residents feel safe and welcome.
Make progress in the next stages of our school infrastructure projects: new elementary school building projects and Wellesley Middle School systems upgrades.
My educational, professional, and civic experience are ideally suited to engaging in productive community discussion, thoughtful deliberation, clear communication, and balanced decision making on these matters.
Read all the candidates written statements on the LOWV 411 voter information website.
Watch Sustainable Wellesley's meet the candidates evening hosted on August 11th, 2020. Topics covered include:
Introductions including what sustainability means to each candidate followed by Q&A:
Micro grids and other energy saving methods for Wellesley
Incentives to encourage more action on sustainability
Changes to speed up Wellesley's response to climate change
What is the main issue you will focus on if elected
Teardowns and housing
Opportunities for protecting Wellesley's open space
The following questions were posed to all candidates. Read Colette's responses below. Visit Sustainable Wellesley's website to read all candidate responses.
1. What is your track record on environmental sustainability, including any related interests, experience, or initiatives?
Like many people, I have become more and more concerned about the environment and want to take concrete steps in my own life to live more sustainably. Luckily, I met the leaders of Sustainable Wellesley very early in the formation of the organization and have been supporting their efforts ever since. In 2018 I became the treasurer for Sustainable Wellesley and still hold that position today. As treasurer of Sprague PTO (2010-12), I helped build budgets supporting many green schools initiatives including the purchase of coffee mugs for use at PTO meetings to reduce waste, the establishment of the Sprague Garden, the installation of permanent playground shade structure and tree planting. While treasurer of the Central Council of PTOs (2011-2015), I helped get the word out through all PTO treasurers in town to participate in the incredibly successful “Power to Choose” campaign. As co-president at WHS PTSO (2018-19) I encouraged committees to use sustainable resources available fromWellesley Green Schools including reusable banquet supplies. This spring I was involved in the working group to raise funds for and install a bike pump and rack station in partnership with Wellesley Police Department. In July 2019 I worked closely with Sustainable Wellesley leadership to help build a new website for the organization. At the most recent Annual Town Meeting I supported and spoke in favor of the Voluntary Renewable Energy Program motion.
The choices my family and I make in the daily management of our lives include a focus on sustainability. We chose to live in a central location in town so we could walk to our everyday activities. I walked or cycled to elementary school with my children. My son continues to walk to school almost every day and my daughter took public transportation to her middle/high school in Boston until graduating. We walk into town for the shops, the library, restaurants - everything. I mostly walk to the grocery store with my reusable bags! When we renovated our house in 2003, we took down one invasive tree and planted 50 arborvitaes even though our lot is very small (.06 acre). I have an arborist inspect our two large shade trees every year, our landscaper was happy to stop using a blower and to leave grass clippings on our lawn. We do not use pesticides or fertilizers on our lawn. I use soap nuts for a good deal of our laundry and woolen balls in our dryer. My political campaign uses biodegradable lawn signs. We have a hybrid vehicle and I recently downsized my minivan to a mini. We conducted a home energy audit several years ago, replaced old windows with more energy efficient ones, were evaluated for solar energy, signed up for the food waste program the day it was launched and, more recently, the “Shave the Peak” program. We have programmable thermostats set at levels recommended for sustainable living. We have reduced our meat consumption and increased vegetarian meals.
In our family life, the outdoors holds a very special place for us. Hiking is a favorite family activity, starting with weekend walks around lake Waban when our children were very young and continuing to this day. We have walked or run every town trail together and make hiking and walking a centerpiece of every vacation we take together. My son is an avid catch and release fisher, my husband and daughter are committed runners and frequent cyclists, I walk on town trails several times a week.
2. How do you see sustainability and the climate crisis as factors in the development of policy for the Town of Wellesley?
The Board Of Selectmen (BOS) is the Town’s executive body and sets policy and strategic direction for the community. The Town can and should consider sustainability and the climate in every policy decision. Within our town government, the BOS can partner with the Sustainable Energy Committee and the Natural Resources Commission among other boards, in developing policies that include climate considerations. Wellesley is fortunate to have a real depth of community organizations interested in the environment and sustainability who join together and meet regularly through the Green Collaborative. The collaborative and its member organizations are a very effective way for the BOS to reach out to and get feedback from the community at large in developing policies.
3. What specific initiatives related to the environment and sustainability should the Board of Selectmen undertake in the upcoming 6 month term?
The Town, through the Sustainable Energy Committee (SEC), has been working toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The SEC uses a multi-pronged approach to achieve this goal, working in the building, waste, and transport sectors. The SEC has applied for a large grant to fund the development of a Climate Action and Resiliency Plan (CARP), and should hear in the fall whether or not the application has been successful. In this plan the Town will set new goals aligning with the State’s target of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The BOS has a significant role in supporting the work of the SEC in developing and implementing the CARP, including facilitation of discussions among boards, building consensus, and communicating to our community at large.
The BOS, working in partnership with the Board of Health, Planning Board, Natural Resources Commission, and Wetlands Protection Committee, completed the Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) program in order to be able to apply for MVP grants to help the Town plan for climate change. Wellesley has already received a grant through this program to complete a planning process and has identified and prioritized action steps to improve resiliency. Again the BOS has a significant role in supporting this work, in particular action point no 1: “Develop and implement an emergency preparedness campaign with a robust communication plan” which will be championed by the Selectmen's communications staff.
The BOS has been working to build consensus on a resolution encouraging all town boards to consider the impact of climate change a priority in decision making. This resolution would lay the groundwork for the Climate Action and Resiliency Plan (CARP) mentioned above. Bringing this resolution to Town Meeting in the fall gives the Town Meeting Members an opportunity to discuss the resolution and ask Town Boards to focus attention on this as a priority.
4. The Town has a number of major capital projects planned for the next few years. How do you envision sustainability playing a role in these projects as they move forward?
Sustainability is a critical element of capital projects and has been given a high profile in the feasibility studies of both Hunnewell and the Hardy/Upham MSBA project. The most recent School Building Committee meeting focused almost exclusively on sustainability factors including Energy Use Intensity (EUI), Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards, impact to natural habitat and more. Both new elementary schools will be “Net Zero Ready”. This reflects a desire by town leadership and residents to integrate sustainability into capital development now and on an ongoing basis. The major school building projects, including systems renovations at the middle school, will significantly reduce our energy use and will contribute towards the Town's goal of reducing our carbon footprint.
With the financial implications of COVID 19, building of a town hall annex is on hold for now, but I would support the same commitment to incorporating sustainability into building an annex should that come to pass in the future.
Wellesley Townsman Q&A
NAME: Colette Aufranc
ADDRESS: 5 Hill Top Road
EDUCATIONAL BACKGROUND: Bachelor of Arts with distinctions in Accounting from Glasgow College of Technology. Member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (the UK equivalent of a Chartered Public Accountant or CPA)
CURRENT OCCUPATION: Civic Volunteer
WHAT QUALIFIES YOU TO BE A MEMBER OF THE BOARD OF SELECTMEN? (INCLUDE BOTH RELEVANT PROFESSIONAL QUALIFICATIONS AND ANY TOWN GOVERNMENT AND CIVIC GROUP INVOLVEMENT.)
An effective member of the Board of Selectmen requires financial acumen, an understanding of Wellesley and its complex Town government, and a collaborative disposition; I have developed these qualities over decades of experience and engagement.
My education, combined with working as an auditor for twelve years and serving as the treasurer for multiple organizations in Wellesley, has given me broad financial experience. Municipal financing is unique and complex. In my third year on the Town’s Audit Committee (and as its current chair), I am familiar with Wellesley’s financial position, including sources and uses of funds, long term obligations, and the capital plan. Public education is Wellesley’s largest departmental budget. Having volunteered for over a decade in Wellesley Public School PTOs and served as a Town Meeting Member since 2018, I am familiar with the unique nature of school budgets including, but not limited to, turnback, turnover, circuit breaker and Chapter 70 funding, and the Special Education Stabilization reserve.
I have lived in Wellesley for 22 years and my husband grew up here. I first engaged in Town matters in 2006 as a neighborhood representative in the redevelopment of Linden Square. Working collaboratively with neighbors, developers, and Town officials I learned how large projects move through the various town departments and how to effectively make one’s voice heard in that process. This work served our neighborhood and Town well as we effected positive change in Linden Square.
Now, more than ever, we hear calls for civil discourse in our government. I have developed strong working relationships with residents and Town officials over more than fourteen years of volunteering and engagement and I am, by nature, a calm, polite, and persistent collaborator. My professional and civic experience combined with my personal working style is what Wellesley needs now.
WHAT DO YOU THINK ARE THE THREE MOST CRITICAL ISSUES CURRENTLY FACING THE TOWN?
An immediate issue facing Wellesley is managing the impacts of the pandemic while maintaining, as much as possible, the high quality services that residents have come to value and appreciate. We have to facilitate a safe reopening of our schools, support businesses as they emerge from unprecedented disruption, and help residents feel safe. The Town must have alternate plans in place should a change of course be necessitated by increased transmission in our community. These challenges require creative planning, thoughtful allocation of resources, and constant, clear communication. These near term challenges will be followed by medium and longer term impacts, including the effect of economic turbulence on homeowners’ ability to pay property taxes (the Town’s primary revenue source), State aid (a significant funding source), and the impact of market volatility on the funding of our long term debt obligations (pensions and other post retirement benefits). As information becomes available on State funding and we have actual tax receipt numbers, the difficult and delicate work of balancing resources and priorities really begins. The true impact of market volatility on our long term obligations may take several years to establish and address.
Public education is a top priority as identified by residents in our Unified Plan. Wellesley has been working for several years to upgrade school facilities. We anticipate upgrading systems in the Wellesley Middle School and building two new elementary schools. For the Hardy/Upham school building project, significant financial support is available from the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA). Wellesley must do what it can to secure MSBA funding, bring voters together to approve debt exclusions and continue to invest in our schools.
Our Unified Plan posed the question “Name one thing you would change about Wellesley?” The most common answer was “diversity” (achieving broader diversity in race, ethnicity and socio-economic status). There is unquestionably work to be done on this self-stated goal. As a town we must listen to the experiences of our residents, reflect on what we can do better, plan and enact change. Among other initiatives, an increased diversity of housing options will help make Wellesley more accessible to a broader range of home buyers and renters. It is an important strategic initiative Wellesley has been working on and must continue to pursue. By its nature, increasing housing stock takes thoughtful planning, careful communication with residents and advocacy groups, and persistence. It is a goal worth pursuing.
IF YOU WIN, WHAT WOULD YOU MOST LIKE TO SEE THE BOARD OF SELECTMEN ACCOMPLISH IN THE SIX MONTHS OF YOUR SERVICE? (LIMIT: 250 WORDS)
Manage the short term financial impacts of the pandemic: Careful consideration has been given to cuts in planned cash capital spending to prepare for anticipated revenue reductions. In the fall, we will know with more certainty our sources of funds and the costs of operating in the new normal. The Selectmen will be faced with difficult decisions; I would like to help navigate those decisions.
Take steps forward to invest in our school buildings: Major capital projects for our public schools need to be ushered into the next stages. In the six months following this election, a debt exclusion to upgrade Wellesley Middle School systems will go to voters, and a decision must be made on the Hardy/Upham (H/U) project. Making the H/U decision in a transparent, thoughtful, and respectful way will be critical in bringing the town together as we move forward with whichever site is chosen. As a Selectman I will listen carefully, deliberate thoughtfully, and ultimately make this decision in the best interests of all our residents.
Support the necessary steps to foster greater diversity in Wellesley: In preparation for running for the Board I reached out to over 100 current and former town leaders, residents and neighbors to engage in individual conversations about what is important to them and what they are looking for in a Selectman. I commit to that same level of engagement in the work the Board must undertake to be a force for positive change in this regard.
Elementary School Building
MSBA Project at Hardy/Upham
In reaching a decision to build at Hardy or Upham these are the factors I believe are most important for a member of the Board of Selectmen (BOS) to consider:
Deliberations of School Building Committee and School Committee
The Town has undertaken a lengthy and thoughtful process to gather information from content experts and residents in several areas, including, but not limited to, educational program delivery, traffic, the environment and sustainability, walkability, and school attendance districts. The most recent School Building Committee (SBC) gave guidance to our consultants that they would like to see these multiple criteria reflected in a matrix. This matrix, and the related deliberations, are critical pieces any member of the BOS must consider in making a decision regarding where to build the new elementary school.
Community Forum and Town Meeting
A community meeting will be held mid-September to review the criteria matrix and the consultants’ recommendations. A Town Meeting update will be held in early October. Discussion and debate at these meetings should be factored into our final decision.
Cost to taxpayers
Overall building and operational costs, including the ability to secure Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) funding, will be an important decision-making factor. There is an SBC meeting scheduled for September 3rd in which cost estimates will be reviewed.
Best interests of the Town overall
Any decision made by the BOS must be in the best, long-term interests of the Town as a whole. This includes the actual building of the new school as well as uniting the Town behind the final decision after it has been made. A town-wide supportive vote is necessary to move forward in funding the project and securing an MSBA grant.
As a community, we have invested, and continue to devote, countless hours and significant taxpayer resources in a thoughtful and thorough process in order to come to a sound decision on where to build our new elementary school. I take the responsibility of participating in that decision very seriously. In preparation, I have watched and re-watched all SBC, School Committee and BOS meetings so as to be able to hit the ground running immediately upon joining the Board. As a member of the BOS I would need to receive the information outlined above, listen to upcoming deliberations and participate in the discussion of critical factors in order to make an informed and responsible decision on where to build.