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Second attempt to pass school budget in Hopkinton fails

  • Rob Miller holds his nine-month-old puppy Tucker as he waits in line to vote at the Hopkinton school meeting at the high school on Saturday morning, May 30, 2020. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Hopkinton selectman and voting volunteer Jeff Donohoe looks on from the check-in table in the high school parking lot. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Voting volunteer Sophia Locke waits for cars at the Hopkinton School meeting at the high school on Saturday, May 30, 2020. With the addition of more volunteers, the backlog of cars did not happen on the second vote. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Voting volunteer Sophia Locke hands out a ballot at the Hopkinton School meeting at the high school on Saturday, May 30, 2020. With the addition of more volunteers, the backlog of cars did not happen on the second vote. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Rob Miller holds his 9-month-old puppy Tucker as greeter Heather Putnam checks him in at the Hopkinton school meeting at the high school on Saturday morning. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Three voting tents helped make the second voting at Hopkinton much smoother on Saturday morning, May 30, 2020. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • The two lanes in the Hopkinton High School parking lot for the voting on Saturday morning, May 30, 2020 with fewer cars during the second school voting in the last two weeks. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Denis Goddard raises his protest sign “1 Choice No Choice” in front of Hopkinton High School on Saturday morning during the second drive-through school meeting vote. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

Published: 5/31/2020 2:41:45 PM

A second attempt to pass a school budget in drive-by voting on Hopkinton failed Saturday.

More than 1,700 voters showed up to cast ballots, eventually striking down a proposed $21.07 million budget with 949 voting no and 770 yes.

The budget was the only item before voters after it was rejected during drive up voting on May 12.

The budget before voters Saturday was a decrease of $343,635 from the $21.4 million spending plan supported by the budget committee. It represents a cut of one cent on the local school tax rate, in part because of a one-time state adequacy grant of $641,000. Despite the small tax decrease, spending would have increased by more than $500,000 over the district’s current $20.55 million operating budget.

Drive-up voting was held to promote social distancing and prevent the spread of the coronavirus, but it had its drawbacks.

Some residents were upset they only had a chance to vote up or down on the budget, as opposed to amending it as they could at a traditional meeting.

Resident Denis Goddard stood in front of the school with a sign that said “1 Choice, No Choice.”

“I remember when I was in school, they used to say that the difference between America and say Russia was in a Russian democracy, you got a ballot with one name on it that you could vote for,” Goddard said. “We’re sitting here with a very complicated, very contentious budget with a lot of opinions and one thing on the ballot that says ‘yes or no,’ and it doesn’t feel to me like this is an appropriate representation of the democratic process.”

He said he was going to stand in front of the school “until I can’t stand it anymore or 3 p.m. when the polls close.”

Some residents said the school budget should be pared back even more given the massive unemployment and financial struggles brought on by the coronavirus. Others wanted to support a larger school budget for a district that has become known for delivering quality education.

The 1,700 votes cast was a massive increase in participation over past years, when a few hundred residents show up at the town or school annual meeting.

This time, school officials extended voting hours from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. to avoid the traffic backups seen at the May 12 voting session. Cars rolled up and voted more smoothly this time but the final result on the budget was the same.

On May 12, five attempts to amend the district’s budget – four to lower it and one to raise it by $200,000 – all failed. A final vote on the budget as proposed, failed to pass with 786 voting no and 617 voting yes, a 56 percent margin. On Saturday, 55% percent of voters said no.

At the May 12 meeting, voters also rejected the proposed teachers’ contract.

With no default budget to rely on, School District Moderator James Newsom scheduled another meeting and vote on the budget in mid-August. An online meeting will be held Wednesday, Aug. 12, and voting will be Saturday, Aug. 15, at 9 a.m. at the Hopkinton Middle High School.

“As we approach August 12, 2020, further postponement of the recessed meeting may be necessary in order to hold the meeting safely and effectively,” Newsom said.




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