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Town Meeting Day 1 recap: Budget, school projects pass easily; session to continue Tuesday

by | May 2, 2023 | Business, Featured: News, News, Police & Fire

Town Meeting

Voters listen to a presentation about the town budget during Monday’s Annual Town Meeting at the middle school auditorium. PHOTO/JOHN CARDILLO

Hopkinton’s Annual Town Meeting kicked off Monday night at the middle school auditorium with a robust turnout of about 500 voters — well above the 128 needed for a quorum — unanimously approving the fiscal year 2024 operating budget, among other budgetary items, after some light debate over School Department increases.

In addition to the budget, articles related to school projects drew some discussion, as did one related to affordable housing (Article 25), but all articles ultimately passed easily.

Appropriations Committee chair Michael Manning explained that the town budget (Article 5) covered a $4.5 million school budget increase as well as general municipal operations funding of nearly $108.6 million. The tax impact on residents was estimated to be an average of $750.

The article also covered debt payments on town projects and the water and sewer enterprise funds. Approval granted a balanced budget at FY23 levels with some “targeted increases“ in the school budget to deal with increasing enrollment numbers.

“This budget does a very good job of balancing competing priorities,” Manning said.

Schools Superintendent Carol Cavanaugh presented the challenges the district faced, stressing fiscal responsibility while acknowledging the needs of a growing student population with more diverse needs. The budget was based on the number of students projected for FY24, which is 4,150.

Cavanaugh noted that fewer than 1% of students in the 2010-11 school year were English language learners, and students with disabilities were 12.7% of the population. During the current school year, those figures skyrocketed to 5.7% and 13.5%, respectively.

As she made her case, Cavanaugh noted that Hopkinton “is doing more with less.” The cost per pupil amount is $15,870, whereas the state average is about $19,000.

Said Cavanaugh: “I think the illustration here is that with the schools and the children that we’re educating, there are a lot of demands, and we’re making a lot of very good things happen on a very tight budget.”

Schools Finance Director Susan Rothermich said that the proposed gross operating budget for FY24 is $63,728,000, an increase of nearly $5 million over the previous year. Only 10 full-time staff additional positions were approved.

One question raised by resident Carl Kaliszewski was about the impact on older residents who will bear a greater percentage of the tax burden without having children who benefit from the schools. This would lead to younger families who “totally benefit” from their contributions continuing to move into town in what he called a “self-fulfilling prophecy.” He received applause from some voters after his comments.

Cavanaugh added that there has been increased funding to address the social and emotional needs of students who have been experiencing challenges since the start of the pandemic.

In other school-related news, Article 19, which requested $3 million in funding for an addition to the Hopkins School, passed by a 275-65 margin. HVAC system upgrade funding also was approved.

Another measure that passed allocated money to the Community Preservation Fund based on the 2% property tax allocation and the payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) agreement for the Wilson Street solar farm.

Mike Shepard

Resident Mike Shepard talks during discussion on Article 20. PHOTO/JOHN CARDILLO

A full two-thirds of the 48 articles were voted on, although some of those that have garnered the most attention are set for Tuesday. Among them is Article 29, a citizens’ petition to change the zoning at the corner of South Street and Hayward Street from lakefront residential to business so that Marguerite Concrete can build its headquarters there. The petitioner asked for the article to be withdrawn and a vote postponed until a more thoroughly vetted plan could be presented, but area residents who are unhappy with the proposal have expressed an interest in forcing a vote now in hopes of voting it down.

Article 34 is a citizens’ petition seeking to limit gun clubs from hosting outdoor shooting in order to cut down on the noise, although questions have been raised about the legality of this item.

Article 47 seeks to abolish the Upper Charles Trail Committee and replace it with a subcommittee of the Trails Management and Coordination Committee, while Article 48 looks to prevent the UCTC from spending money on Segment 7, which as currently proposed would run along Hayden Rowe Street and cross it multiple times. However, the first article would not be binding, while the second article would not prevent the UCTC from making another request for funds, according to town counsel.

Following is a list of all articles with the results of the voting.

Article 1, Acceptance of town reports
Passed by voice vote (simple majority needed)

Article 2, Fiscal year 2023 supplemental appropriations and transfers
Passed by voice vote as part of consent agenda (simply majority needed)

Article 3, Unpaid bills from prior fiscal years
Passed by voice vote as part of consent agenda (simply majority needed)

Article 4, Set the salary of elected officials
Passed by voice vote (simply majority needed)

Article 5, Fiscal year 2024 operating budget
Passed by voice vote (simply majority needed)

Article 6, Fiscal year 2024 revolving funds spending limits
Passed by voice vote (simply majority needed)

Article 7, PEG access and cable related fund revolving account funding
Passed by voice vote (simply majority needed)

Article 8, Chapter 90 highway funds
Passed by voice vote as part of consent agenda (simply majority needed)

Article 9, Transfer to Other Post-Employment Benefits Liability Trust Fund
Passed by voice vote as part of consent agenda (simply majority needed)

Article 10, Transfer to the General Stabilization Fund
Passed by voice vote as part of consent agenda (simply majority needed)

Article 11, Transfer to the School Special Education Reserve Fund
Passed by voice vote as part of consent agenda (simply majority needed)

Article 12, Establish Capital Stabilization Account for South Middlesex Regional Vocational Technical School District
Passed by voice vote (simply majority needed)

Article 13, PILOT agreement, Wilson Street solar farm
Passed by voice vote (simply majority needed)

Article 14, Pay-as-you-go capital expenses
Passed by voice vote (simply majority needed)

Article 15, Chestnut Street sidewalk
Passed by head count, 375-6 (two-thirds majority needed)

Article 16, Sidewalk from EMC Park to Blueberry Lane
Passed by voice vote (two-thirds majority needed)

Article 17, Fire Station 2 architectural and engineering design
Passed by head count, 355-16 (two-thirds majority needed)

Article 18, Hopkinton Public Schools HVAC renewal work
Passed by head count, 323-10 (two-thirds majority needed)

Article 19, Hopkins School addition
Passed by head count, 275-65 (two-thirds majority needed)

Article 20, Roadway paving, Pratt Way and cemeteries
Passed by voice vote (two-thirds majority needed)

Article 21, Water Department vehicle replacement
Passed by voice vote (simple majority needed)

Article 22, School curriculum, equipment and services contracts
Passed by voice vote (simple majority needed)

Article 23, Community Preservation funds
Passed by voice vote (simple majority needed)

Article 24, Community Preservation recommendations
Motion 1, passed by voice vote (simple majority needed)
Motion 2, passed by voice vote (simple majority needed)

Article 25, Inclusionary development bylaw
Passed by head count, 287-9 (two-thirds majority needed)

Article 26, Electric vehicle parking spaces
Not yet discussed

Article 27, Site plan review rooftop solar exemption
Not yet discussed

Article 28, Zoning district change, 2 West Elm Street and 0 West Elm Street
Not yet discussed

Article 29, Zoning district change, South Street and Hayward Street
Not yet discussed

Article 30, Housekeeping, delete definition
Not yet discussed

Article 31, Amend meeting minutes bylaw
Not yet discussed

Article 32, Amend leash law
Not yet discussed

Article 33, Short-term rental bylaw
Not yet discussed

Article 34, Gun club indoor shooting
Not yet discussed

Article 35, Street acceptance, Foxhollow Road
Not yet discussed

Article 36, Street acceptance, Box Mill Road
Not yet discussed

Article 37, Accept gift of land, Turkey Ridge subdivision
Passed by voice vote as part of consent agenda (simply majority needed)

Article 38, Solar canopy leases, middle school and high school
Not yet discussed

Article 39, Fruit Street lease
Passed by voice vote as part of consent agenda (simply majority needed)

Article 40, Drainage easement, 14 Hazel Road
Not yet discussed

Article 41, Drainage easement, 77 South Street
Passed by voice vote (simple majority needed)

Article 42, Drainage easement, 20 Downey Place
Passed by voice vote (simple majority needed)

Article 43, Home rule petition for special state legislation to authorize taking of easements in Milford for Lake Maspenock dam repairs
Passed by voice vote (simple majority needed)

Article 44, Easements for Lake Maspenock dam repairs
Passed by head count, 336-77 (simple majority needed)

Article 45, Temporary easement for Lake Maspenock dam repairs
Passed by voice vote (simple majority needed)

Article 46, Net zero resolution
Not yet discussed

Article 47, Abolish Upper Charles Trail Committee and establish subcommittee
Not yet discussed

Article 48, Upper Charles Trail Committee spending, Segment 7
Not yet discussed

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