Hopkinton school budget hike sparks concern
Published: 02-08-2024 3:37 PM
Modified: 02-08-2024 5:24 PM
Tricia Lambert fears this will be another year when the Hopkinton school district takes the lion’s share of funding, leaving little for the town’s needs.
Taxpayers only have so much money they can pay, and she worries town priorities will be squeezed by the school’s $1.7 million increase in its operating budget.
“Families are hurting. To say that they’re not, it’s just not true,” Lambert said at Wednesday night’s budget hearing. “I only hope that the budget committee does really look at this and not pass the same thing that we had last year. There has to be a ceiling on this, there has to be, because if there’s not, the town’s not going to be able to do what they need to do.”
The operating budget for the school is $26.6 million, with a tax impact of $1.70, representing a 6.8% increase, while the town’s budget is $9.74 million, up 6.2%.
The tax impact of the town’s operating budget is 96 cents. The combined increase between the two would mean $931 more a year on the tax bill for a home worth $350,000.
Driving the major increases in the school budget are a $720,401 rise in healthcare costs and $395,408 in salary increases, with dental plan costs now included to support paraprofessionals and support staff.
“We felt that it was really important, and part of the goal for the last few contracts is to create equity across all of our employees so that everybody is treated fairly,” said school board member Rob Nadeau.
Amanda Gilman echoed concerns about the town’s financial stability, particularly regarding $23 million bond payments that are looming.
“We’re staring down the barrel of a gun here and I don’t know what the answer is,” said Gilman. “But we got to figure something out. Something different has to happen. So we really need to start coming up to try to be a little more proactive instead of reactive.”
Of the $23 million in bond payments, $20 million is for road bonds and $3 million is for the cleanup of sludge contamination with “forever” chemicals or PFAS at the transfer station’s septic lagoon.
“Unfortunately, for years in the past, in order to keep the percentage increase in tax rate down, the select board opted not to spend as much as we should have on the roads,” said select board member Ken Traum, acknowledging the concerns with road conditions in town. “That’s what put us put us in the bottom and we’re trying to balance all the needs.”
The town’s operating budget also includes funds to hire a full-time employee at the transfer station to ensure compliance with the pay-by-bag program.