Southampton voters to decide $718K override on Saturday

  • William E. Norris School in Southampton GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 6/10/2021 12:59:02 PM

SOUTHAMPTON — Voters will decide whether to support a $718,467 override to stave off school and town budget cuts when they head to Town Meeting on Saturday.

The Proposition 2½ override is part of a 42-article warrant for the meeting that takes place at Labrie Field on Strong Road at 9 a.m.

Without the override, Norris Elementary School will need to cut or reduce several key positions, according to school and town officials, in addition to other cuts to supplies and curriculums. The override also would prevent cuts across other departments.

The town’s total budget with the override amounts to around $19 million, a 7% increase above the current fiscal year’s budget.

If approved, the override will increase the town’s current tax rate of $15.97 per $1,000 of property value to $16.85 per $1,000. The average residential property in Southampton is assessed at $325,958, which would translate to about a $287 increase in property taxes.

The school’s total budget with the override amounts to $5.4 million, compared to $4.8 million without the override. The School Committee initially anticipated that it would need to cut several positions if the override does not pass, but rearranged its tentative budget at a May 19 meeting to impact more people but save positions from elimination.

If the override fails, the School Committee would need to implement a “laundry list” of changes, said committee chairman Jon Lumbra, including eliminating a paraprofessional and a reading interventionist. Additionally, the school would reduce the hours of its two school nurses, reduce curriculum supplies by $10,000, reduce utilities by $40,000, eliminate music classes next year, and reduce a planned full-time math interventionist position to a part-time role.

This impact will likely grow in future years, said School Committee member Austin Rogers, “until, again, something really bad is going to happen.”

“We might not be able to do anything about it at that point,” Rogers said. “We can do something about it now if the voters decide to hear our pleas and fund our school.”

Most of the general override is due to contractual increases for school employees, out-of-district placements for students in special education programs, increases in tuition at vocational schools and transportation increases, according to Town Administrator Ed Gibson.

Additional expenses come from “sizable increases to our retirement funding,” Gibson said, and “other unexpected required expenses” associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gibson said that the override would also benefit the town library, provide for materials, maintenance and utilities, and prevent cuts to police, fire and EMS personnel.

Some voters, including resident Nilda Cohen, have criticized the override, stating that the town did not properly budget for a rainy day and that more departments, including the schools, need to prepare for a leaner budget as a result.

Cohen, a former Select Board member, also is concerned that the budget was put together without a permanent accountant in place. The role was vacated last November and has been filled on a temporary basis in the interim.

At Town Meeting, residents also will vote on two smaller debt-exclusion overrides for a highway dump truck and acquisition to expand a bicycle and pedestrian trail, which would increase tax rates by .05% and .04% per $1,000 of property value, respectively. The average homeowner would pay an increase of around $16 for each of these overrides, according to town officials.

Voters will need to approve or reject the town budget at a Town Election on June 22.

Jacquelyn Voghel can be reached at jvoghel@gazettenet.com.


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