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Town Meeting supports Hopkins School addition/renovation, budget

by | May 6, 2024 | Featured: News, News

Town Meeting

Hopkinton Public Schools Superintendent Carol Cavanaugh talks about the Hopkins School addition/renovation project at Monday’s Annual Town Meeting. PHOTO/JOHN CARDILLO

Annual Town Meeting on Monday approved funding for the $48.5 million Hopkins School addition and renovation project by a vote of 242-102. Having achieved the two-thirds majority, the question now goes on a town-wide ballot for a vote on May 20.

The new debt funding amount is $46.9 million.

Appropriation Committee chair Mike Manning noted that the average tax bill would rise $429 during the peak year of 30 years of borrowing.

Prior to discussion on the article, Superintendent Carol Cavanaugh and Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Operations Susan Rothermich gave a presentation on enrollment, the design by architect Perkins Eastman (which is at 60% to date) and funding.

Last fall, Town Meeting approved funding for a replacement for Elmwood School (to be called Charleswood) that would be comprised of Grades 2-4.

As a result, Hopkins School would convert to a Lower Middle School with Grades 5-6, which would free up space at the middle school that also could be used by high school students.

The 28,000 square foot addition would include a gymnasium, multipurpose room, classrooms, art room and special education rooms, as well as provisions for the connection to a future modular double-height classroom addition.

Outdoor work would have geothermal mechanical systems and several green features in the building.

The other part of the project involves major renovations such as a new kitchen, cafetorium, music room, band room, STEM rooms, small group rooms, science rooms, nurse suite, loading dock and specialized classroom spaces.

Cavanaugh pointed out that using a 10-year projected average by the Massachusetts School Building Authority, (MSBA), the population at Hopkins School is estimated at 803 students by 2032.

Currently, there are 689 students, and the building can accommodate 628, according to a Perkins Eastman study, she said.

Many of the questions by Town Meeting members centered around enrollment, with some speakers questioning if growth would continue at the projected rate, while others expressed that something had to be done to keep up with the numbers.

Resident Anne Mattina said a UMass study of single-family building showed Hopkinton at 72 in 2022, the highest in Middlesex County. By comparison, Lexington had 71, but Mattina said Hopkinton reported on nine months while Lexington reported on 12.

“We just keep building,” she said. “At some point, we have got to rein this in.”

Barry Rosenbloom questioned whether possible growth from a MBTA bylaw would make the enrollment even higher.

Rothermich noted that the enrollment study was done prior to that being a factor and was not included.

Tracy Martellotta, a parent of elementary school children, questioned the timing of the vote and said enrollment is not increasing as predicted.

She said K-5 enrollment is “lagging” and suggested the project be delayed a year or two to see if the projections materialize.

School administrators, however, presented data that showed enrollment numbers overall had surpassed predictions for the past three years, and estimates are for continued growth.

Sarah Navin, president of the HPTO, praised the administrators and teachers while noting Hopkins School already is too small. She asked what would happen if the addition/renovation project failed.

Having sixth graders split their school year between Hopkins and the Middle School was one possibility, Cavanaugh said. That move would be necessary to ensure that all Grade 6 students receive the same programs. However, it would involve changing teachers mid-year, she said.

Ashley Fogg, vice president of the HPTO, said she volunteers at Hopkins sometimes as often as five days per week.

“It’s really, really crowded,” she said. “[The teachers] do a really good job. And if I’m honest with you, I don’t think the kids even notice — [the teachers] do that good of a job.”

She said two fifth grade classrooms for main instruction are windowless, adding, “I don’t want my kid in that classroom. … I know that the $48 million is a huge pill to swallow … but we have to approve the school because we don’t have space anymore, and it’s crunch time.”

Mike Shepard served on the original Hopkins building committee 25 years ago and said that he was sorry it was not built large enough.

Shepard said to have outstanding schools comes with a cost and contributes to why people want to live in Hopkinton.

Earlier in the meeting, a capital request article for $700,000 to fund district-wide HVAC upgrades got a “no action” vote at the School Committee’s request.

Rothermich explained that $850,000 previously was allocated by Town Meeting for that purpose. It was put on hold and dovetailed into the Hopkins School project to make the facility “greener.”

Matt Kizner, chair of the Capital Improvements Committee, objected to the switch to “no action” and questioned the legality of the school addition article amidst changes since November, when the CIC voted on it.

“I feel we’ve been circumvented and not considered part of the process,” he said.

Town Meeting

Attendees at Monday’s Annual Town Meeting at the Hopkinton Middle School auditorium listen to a speaker. PHOTO/JOHN CARDILLO

Budget passes easily

Town Meeting addressed half of the 52 articles Monday, approving all — although some were for no action — except one: roadway and sidewalk improvements on DiCarlo Road, Peppercorn Road and Barbara Road. (See below for results for all the articles.)

In presenting the town’s $116 million budget for Article 7, Manning, the Appropriation Committee chair, said it was achieved through a “public and collaborative process” with an eye toward maintaining the town’s stellar AAA bond rating.

The school budget checks in at $63.1 million, a 5.35% increase from last year.

The overall tax impact is 4%, or $505 on a current $12,454 annual tax bill for an average Hopkinton home worth $852,000.

“One of the town’s core financial principles is to budget in a cautious and prudent way, which means taking a pessimistic view of potential revenue coming in, while also trying to make sure that budgets are able to absorb inflationary cost increases, which are difficult to predict in periods of higher inflation,” Manning said.

He cautioned voters that there will be “challenges” in the next five years, with numerous large capital expenses being discussed that could lead to increases of 10-22% in the residential tax rate.

Added Manning: “Through a combination of cost containment and some good news on estimated revenues, the proposal before today’s Town Meeting, if approved, will deliver a balanced budget, one that sustains fiscal year 2024 level services across departments, that pays for contractual and other inflationary cost increases and includes capital spending to renew town facilities and equipment, that provides for schools to deal with growing enrollment.”

The budget passed by a vote of 280-70.

Town Meeting will resume Tuesday and theoretically should move faster, as the big ticket items already have been discussed. However, Special Town Meeting will kick things off, and the fifth and final article for STM is the petition to reinstate Tim Brennan to the Hopkinton Police Department. That’s sure to spark some debate.

ANNUAL TOWN MEETING ARTICLES/RESULTS

Article 1: Acceptance of town reports
Approved, 304-23

Article 2: Supplemental appropriations and transfers
Approved via consent agenda, 292-39 (simple majority required)

Article 3: Unpaid bills from prior fiscal years
Approved via voice vote (four-fifths majority required)

Article 4: Rescind authorized but unissued debt
Vote to take no action approved via consent agenda, 292-39 (simple majority required)

Article 5: Excess bond premium
Vote to take no action approved via consent agenda, 292-39 (simple majority required)

Article 6: Set the salary of elected officials
Approved via voice vote (simple majority required)

Article 7: Fiscal year 2025 operating budget
Approved, 280-70 (simple majority required)

Article 8: FY 2025 revolving funds spending limits
Approved by voice vote, (simple majority required)

Article 9: PEG access and cable-related funding
Approved, 236-70 (simple majority required)
Amendment to increase HCAM funding with additional $50,000 from the town’s free cash approved, 233-102 (simple majority required)

Article 10: Chapter 90 highway funds
Approved via consent agenda, 292-39 (simple majority required)

Article 11: Transfer to Other Post-Employment Benefits Liability Trust Fund
Approved via consent agenda, 292-39 (simple majority required)

Article 12: Transfer to the general stabilization fund
Approved via consent agenda, 292-39 (simple majority required)

Article 13: Transfer to the Capital Expense Stabilization Fund
Vote to take no action approved via consent agenda, 292-39 (simple majority required)

Article 14: Transfer to the School Special Education Reserve Fund
Approved via consent agenda, 292-39 (simple majority required)

Article 15: Opioids funds appropriation
Approved via voice vote (simple majority required)

Article 16: Pay-as-you-go capital expenses
Approved via voice vote (simple majority required)

Article 17: Digitization of all town records
Approved, 297-46 (two-thirds majority required)

Article 18: District-wide HVAC replacement
Vote to take no action approved via voice vote (simple majority required)

Article 19: Hopkins Elementary School addition and renovation
Approved, 242-102 (two-thirds majority required)

Article 20: Ash Street and Fenton Street drainage improvement
Approved, 209-46 (two-thirds majority required)

Article 21: Roadway and sidewalk improvements, DiCarlo Road, Peppercorn Road, Barbara Road
Failed, 151-82 (two-thirds majority required)

Article 22: Granite Street culvert replacement
Approved, 183-42 (two-thirds majority required)

Article 23: Town-wide water main flushing program

Article 24: Howe Street water treatment plant-ozone treatment

Article 25: Grove Street water tank design

Article 26: East Main Street water main replacement

Article 27: Water Department vehicle replacement

Article 28: Water Department vehicle replacement
Vote to take no action approved via consent agenda, 292-39 (simple majority required)

Article 29: Water Department vehicle replacement

Article 30: Sewer Department vehicle replacement

Article 31: Wastewater treatment plant membrane

Article 32: Sewer system evaluation, Hayden Rowe pump station

Article 33: Municipal parking

Article 34: Toxic chemicals testing

Article 35: Home rule petition-senior tax exemptions, school building projects

Article 36: Adopt the specialized energy code

Article 37: Community preservation funds

Article 38: Community preservation recommendations

Article 39: MBTA Communities zoning bylaw

Article 40: Zoning map change, 1 Colonial Avenue, 81 Hayden Rowe, 83 Hayden Rowe

Article 41: Amend noncriminal disposition bylaw

Article 42: General bylaw amendment-membership requirements for certain committees

Article 43: General bylaw amendment-admission to town meeting hall

Article 44: General bylaw amendment-leash law

Article 45: Accept gift of land, Whisper Ridge subdivision
Approved via consent agenda, 292-39 (simple majority required)

Article 46: Accept gift of land, Connelly Farm subdivision
Approved via consent agenda, 292-39 (simple majority required)

Article 47: Accept gift of land, Elmwood III subdivision

Article 48: Easement, Lake Maspenock dam operations and maintenance

Article 49: Property disposition, 0 Duffield Road and 0 Beach Street

Article 50: Transfer care, custody and control of Echo Trail parcels
Vote to take no action approved via consent agenda, 292-39 (two-thirds majority required)

Article 51: Amend town charter-housekeeping

Article 52: Establish Government Study Committee

SPECIAL TOWN MEETING ARTICLES/RESULTS

Article 1: Public works vehicle replacement

Article 2: Main Street Fire Station HVAC upgrade

Article 3: Woodville Fire Station repairs

Article 4: Land disposition-0 Hayward Street

Article 5: Appoint Sgt. Timothy Brennan

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