A year removed from a $1.88 million Proposition 2 ½ override for its operating budget, the Hamilton-Wenham Regional School District is coming back to voters in those towns seeking a $1,241,000 debt exclusion that would raise property taxes for 10 years.
Wenham residents will be asked for their support at Annual Town Meeting on Saturday, May 2, while Hamilton has its Annual Town Meeting on Monday, May 4. If the property tax hikes make it through town meeting, they would have to pass townwide votes at elections scheduled for May 14.
Paul Szymanski, assistant superintendent for finance and administration, said the money would fund capital projects for improvements and repairs at school buildings in the district, as well as roof repairs for the central administration building. The work addresses some overdue needs, he said.
"Deferred maintenance is going to cost communities," he said. "Our hope is that this plan will get us to the point where [maintenance] is manageable. This is an opportunity that is long overdue."
In meetings with town officials, Szymanski has said that it may be possible to combine old and new debt, restructuring it so that the district's annual payment may actually be the same or lower. That's one reason Hamilton's Finance Committee has supported the proposal, according to acting chairman Bob Bullivant.
"We're long overdue in terms of deferred maintenance in schools," he said. "Like the town, [the district] hasn't had the budget flexibility to include maintenance projects in its operating budget."
Exactly how much the two communities would have to pay is will change from year to year according to the enrollment ratio, according to Hamilton Town Administrator Candace Wheeler.
Residents in Wenham will be asked to support not just the school district's measure, but also a town-sponsored one-year, $64,500 capital override for the purchase of computers, catch basin work, a plow, and a DPW truck.
While admitting that this is a tough climate in which to seek a tax hike, Wenham Board of Selectman Chairman John Clemenzi said it is needed.
"We have done everything in our power to reduce the budget significantly," said Clemenzi, noting that the proposed fiscal year 2010 budget is lower than the budget for the current fiscal year.
Approximately 900 people turned out for the Hamilton Town Meeting Monday night, filling the cafeteria at the Hamilton-Wenham Regional High School, then the auditorium, and spilling into the adjacent Miles River Middle School.
Following an hour of discussion, residents voted in favor of a $1,288,322 Proposition 2 ½ override for the Hamilton-Wenham Regional School District.
With less discussion, residents also voted in favor of a $177,444 override for the town's operating budget. Both articles passed by voice vote.
The Hamilton-Wenham Regional School District is seeking a $1,889,589 override from the two towns. At its Town Meeting held Saturday, Wenham voters approved their share of the override, for $601,267.
To be approved, the override must pass at May 15 elections in both towns.
-- David Rattigan
The Hamilton-Wenham Regional School Committee voted Monday night to request a Proposition 2 1/2 override to help fund its fiscal 2009 budget.
According to an e-mail from Superintendent Marinel McGrath, the override will cost individual taxpayers an average of $393 per year.
The proposed override of $1,889,589 is less than the figure officials had used at budget presentations, and was lowered because of the March 20 House and Senate Joint Resolution on Chapter 70 aid that will give the district an additional $97,800 in state funds.
The '09 budget will maintain the current level of services, and be used to fund a small number of initiatives recommended in the administration's strategic plan. The total proposed budget for the school district is $27,031,567.
Hamilton voters will be asked to vote on a Proposition 21/2 override of $1,288,322 at Town Meeting May 5 and the Wenham override, for $601,267, will be voted on May 3.
Both towns passed school overrides last year, $340,121 in Hamilton and $154,817 in Wenham.
-- David Rattigan
With a vote by the Hamilton-Wenham Regional School Committee budget request scheduled for Monday, voters in Hamilton and Wenham may be looking at a Proposition 2 ½ override totaling $1,987,389.
While that may seem like a large sum to seek, the request has the backing of an organized advocacy group. Support Our Schools has been working since last spring to raise community awareness and garner support for school funding, wary of the recent pattern of reductions in Hamilton-Wenham schools.
SOS has sponsored its own meetings and encouraged attendance at others throughout the budget process. "We're committed to getting community support behind it, and to get this override passed,'' said SOS tri-chair Nancy Peterson.
Monday's meeting is at 6 p.m. at the Buker School, School Street, Wenham.
-- David Rattigan
After weeks of item-by-item deliberation, the Hamilton Board of Selectmen voted Thursday on a final figure for its Proposition 2 ½ override to support the town's operating budget. The town will seek $121,582.
That's not the only override this year. Residents also will vote on a $340,121 override for the Hamilton-Wenham Regional School District, and a one-year capital exclusion for $82,500 for the purchase of two pickup trucks and a police cruiser.
Town Meeting is scheduled for May 7.
-- David Rattigan