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Hopkinton $17.6 million school budget, support contract pass

  • Hopkinton resident David Lancaster asks the school board questions regarding specific articles within the Hopkinton School District's proposed $17.6 million operating budget; Saturday, March 9, 2013.<br/><br/>(SAMANTHA GORESH / Monitor staff)

    Hopkinton resident David Lancaster asks the school board questions regarding specific articles within the Hopkinton School District's proposed $17.6 million operating budget; Saturday, March 9, 2013.

    (SAMANTHA GORESH / Monitor staff)

  • From left: Bonnie Cressy, Jean Lightfoot, Virginia Haines and CArol McCan sign voters in at the meeting for Hopkinton residents to vote on the school district's $17.6 million operating budget; Saturday, March 9, 2013.<br/><br/>(SAMANTHA GORESH / Monitor staff)

    From left: Bonnie Cressy, Jean Lightfoot, Virginia Haines and CArol McCan sign voters in at the meeting for Hopkinton residents to vote on the school district's $17.6 million operating budget; Saturday, March 9, 2013.

    (SAMANTHA GORESH / Monitor staff)

  • Cameron Burgess (left) Evan Chapman (center) and their Cubmaster for PAck 77, Deborah Dyer-Quinn prepare to recite the pledge of Allegiance after presenting the flags at the meeting in the Hopkinton Middle High School gym for residents to vote on the Hopkinton School District's budget; Saturday, March 9, 2013.<br/><br/>(SAMANTHA GORESH / Monitor staff)

    Cameron Burgess (left) Evan Chapman (center) and their Cubmaster for PAck 77, Deborah Dyer-Quinn prepare to recite the pledge of Allegiance after presenting the flags at the meeting in the Hopkinton Middle High School gym for residents to vote on the Hopkinton School District's budget; Saturday, March 9, 2013.

    (SAMANTHA GORESH / Monitor staff)

  • Hopkinton resident David Lancaster asks the school board questions regarding specific articles within the Hopkinton School District's proposed $17.6 million operating budget; Saturday, March 9, 2013.<br/><br/>(SAMANTHA GORESH / Monitor staff)
  • From left: Bonnie Cressy, Jean Lightfoot, Virginia Haines and CArol McCan sign voters in at the meeting for Hopkinton residents to vote on the school district's $17.6 million operating budget; Saturday, March 9, 2013.<br/><br/>(SAMANTHA GORESH / Monitor staff)
  • Cameron Burgess (left) Evan Chapman (center) and their Cubmaster for PAck 77, Deborah Dyer-Quinn prepare to recite the pledge of Allegiance after presenting the flags at the meeting in the Hopkinton Middle High School gym for residents to vote on the Hopkinton School District's budget; Saturday, March 9, 2013.<br/><br/>(SAMANTHA GORESH / Monitor staff)

A $17.6 million school budget and a new three-year support staff contract passed easily yesterday in Hopkinton, despite both measures contributing to a substantial tax rate increase for voters in the coming year.

The approved budget includes $460,000 in new costs and is expected to add 70 cents to the tax rate per $1,000 of assessed property value. The biggest fiscal increases came from $270,000 in pension costs due to the state eliminating its share of the payments for public employees, and $186,000 in special education funding, which Superintendent Steve Chamberlin has said will go toward enrolling students with severe needs in specialized out-of-district programs.

After the meeting, which lasted less than two hours and was attended by some 225 residents, Chamberlin said he was thrilled with the outcome.

“I certainly appreciate this community’s support in the education of our young people,” he said. “A lot of hard work goes into today.”

The support staff contract, which provides librarians, administrative staff and others with wage increases and includes a revised incentives program for those who stay in the district for more than 10 years, will alone cost about $68,000 this year. The contract agreement was approved separately from the operating budget and generated no public discussion.

The rest of the meeting went off with little fanfare compared with last year’s meeting, in which several residents opposed the then-$17-million proposed budget and motioned to cut it by as much as $602,000. This time, few people even approached the microphone during public comment periods.

Resident Arnold Coda, who identified himself after the meeting as a regular budget opponent, said that was partly because people who are frustrated over the district’s spending record have simply “given up coming.”

But Coda never lashed out against the board yesterday. In fact he stood up just once before the budget vote to ask how the district’s expenses, withholding the mandatory pension and special education increases, compared to this year’s.

School board Chairman David Luneau said that when those costs, plus the support staff contracts were not factored in “then it’s essentially a flat budget.”

Coda said later that was what he had wanted to hear.

“Frankly, it’s a good budget,” he said. “And I went to the budget meetings, so I know how much they worked on it.”

But Coda cautioned that level spending alone won’t cut it in the long run, especially given recent enrollment declines. The student population has dropped by more than a hundred pupils since 2006.

“I think the board and the administration needs to take a hard look at where and how they can reduce the operating budget in coming years,” Coda said.

Another resident, David Lancaster, took to the microphone several times during the meeting, asking questions of the board about overall costs, staff reductions, tax impacts and the teacher/student ratio.

Lancaster asked Luneau whether the $75,000 cut to drivers’ education he had described in an earlier presentation was in fact a cut since the state was no longer sending that amount to the district explicitly for that purpose. (Luneau said it was a cut in both revenue and expenditure.)

He asked why the budget had continued to swell since 2007, while the teacher/student ratio seemed to have do just the opposite. (Chamberlin said the ratio had actually increased from 11:1 to 12:1.)

About midway through the meeting, Lancaster motioned to move one of the last articles in the agenda. He appeared concerned that the measure, which gives the district the ability to retain up to 2.5 percent of any budget surplus at the end of each year and use it to stabilize future tax rates or pay for emergency projects, could lead to an even higher tax rate increase than already stated – a number of school board members agreed that it would not.

Toward the end of the meeting Lancaster asked the board for a count of how many people were in attendance and what percentage of the town’s population that number represented.

“I just like to put on record the total number of people who show up to this and how that compares to the overall population,” he said. “I’m willing to guess it’s 2 or 3 percent” – it was 5 – “which, for a democracy is pretty pathetic.”

Voters also approved a handful of other warrant articles, including requests to raise $10,000 each for the district’s vehicle capital reserve account and the health insurance capital reserve account, and to add $50,000 to its repair and maintenance fund.

(Jeremy Blackman can be reached at 369-3319,
jblackman@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @JBlackmanCM.)

Legacy Comments3

$17.6 Million budget - 960 students - for 100 points and a gold star what is the cost per pupil?

It has been obvious for years that the elite liberal democrats that overwhelmingly occupy Hopkinton could care less about the residents that make up the work force

Thank you voters of Hopkinton!

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