Northampton votes resounding ‘yes’ on override

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  • Supporters of the override cheer upon hearing news of the unofficial results relayed by Bill Scher, foreground right, at a Yes!Northampton party held at Brew Practitioners Brewery and Taproom in Florence on Tuesday. In foreground at left are Northampton City Finance Director Susan Wright and Mayor David Narkewicz. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Northampton City Council President Gina-Louise Sciarra, left, retired Early Childhood Coordinator Barbara Black, Mayor David Narkewicz and Sciarra’s husband, Bill Scher, discuss the early positive results from the override vote during a Yes!Northampton party held at Brew Practictioners Brewery and Taproom in Florence on Tuesday, March 3, 2020. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • The spirits of override supporters begin to rise as they hear the unofficial results called out by Bill Scher, seated, at a Yes!Northampton party held at Brew Practitioners Brewery and Taproom in Florence on Tuesday, March 3, 2020. Minutes after the polls closed, Scher received the unofficial posted results from volunteers at each precinct, then compared these to figures from the 2013 and 2009 overrides, ward by ward. Joining him, from left, are Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz, School Committee members Rebecca Busansky and Emily Serafy-Cox and Yes!Northampton co-chair Marissa Elkins. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Stacey Dakai, a supporter of the Northampton override, stands outside the Northampton Senior Center, where residents of Wards 3 and 4 vote, on Tuesday evening. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Voters in Northampton wards 3 and 4 cast their ballots at the Northampton Senior Center on Tuesday evening, March 3, 2020. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 3/3/2020 9:57:12 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Voters overwhelmingly approved the city’s $2.5 million override, with 62% of residents voting “yes” and 38% percent voting “no,” according to unofficial results reported by Mayor David Narkewicz.

“A wide majority of the city understands our situation and had the confidence in our city to be able to renew the fiscal stability plan,” Narkewicz said at a Yes!Northampton event on Tuesday evening at Brew Practitioners Brewery and Taproom in Florence.

“I also understand and appreciate the concerns of those who feel they couldn’t support it,” he said. “I know they care about this city.”

Roughly half of the $2.5 million will go toward a projected budget shortfall, while the rest will replenish the city’s fiscal stability fund, which helps plug holes in the city’s budget. This override is the third that has been put before city voters in just over a decade. Under Proposition 2½, a state law adopted in 1980, municipalities cannot raise the amount of property taxes they collect by more than 2.5% each year unless residents vote to allow it.

School Committee members Emily Serafy-Cox and Laura Fallon said they felt relieved that the override passed. “It means we don’t have to make deep cuts for the next several years,” Serafy-Cox said at the Yes!Northampton event on Tuesday evening.

A failed override would have left the district with a $591,000 shortfall in next fiscal year’s budget and larger shortfalls in subsequent years, Superintendent John Provost said last week. Mayor Narkewicz also warned of budget cuts, telling the Gazette in December “if we reached a place where our budget needs to be constricted, it’s going to be looking at making departments smaller — and that’s people. It’s eliminating people.”

For weeks, Narkewicz has been making his pitch for the necessity of the override at town hall presentations around the city.

There was no organized public campaign against the override, but city voters on the “no” side have cited concerns about the affordability of the city, while others don’t approve of how the city manages its money.

On Tuesday afternoon, Arnold Levinson stood with a sign that read “Enough! Keep Northampton Sustainable” outside of the Northampton Senior Center, the polling place for Wards 3 and 4.

“Continuously running a deficit budget is disingenuous,” he said in a statement sent to the Gazette. “The citizens of Northampton do not have a money-printing press to satisfy the appetite of spending.”

Michele Smith, a 30-year city resident, said she planned to vote against the override as she walked into the Florence Civic and Business Building, the polling place for Ward 5A. She inherited her home and said she can’t afford a tax hike.

“I don’t think it’s necessary,” Smith said. Others shared similar worries about affordability outside the polls Tuesday but didn’t want their names published.

Some voters were undecided as they walked into the polls. One Ward 6 voter who declined to give her name said she struggled over her decision when she got her ballot. “I hovered over the two ovals,” she said.

For months, Yes!Northampton has been pushing for the override. The campaign’s strategy was “to give Northampton the facts,” Yes!Northampton volunteer Bill Scher, who is married to City Council President Gina-Louise Sciarra, told the group of supporters gathered at Brew Practitioners on Tuesday night. “We did not embellish, we did not exaggerate.”

“We live in a world when there’s a lot of misinformation,” he said.

Many from the Yes!Northampton campaign were at the polls. Jack Loveless stood with a “yes” sign by the Senior Center parking lot. “I grew up in Northampton and went through the public schools,” he said. Now, he has two children at Bridge Street School and doesn’t want to see budget cuts in the schools.

“I’m fearful of what would happen if the budget was reduced by $600,000,” Loveless said, adding, “I think there have been a lot of good arguments on both sides.”

Larry Pareles, a Yes!Northampton volunteer, held a sign in support of the override outside Ryan Road School Tuesday afternoon as voters entered and exited the polls. “It will really help the town stay financially solvent,” he said of the override. “We’re hoping it will pass.”

Cathy Strader stood outside R.K. Finn Ryan Road School holding a sign for her daughter, Cherilyn Strader, who was running as a write-in candidate for Democratic State Committee Woman for the Hampshire, Franklin and Worcester District. Cathy Strader voted in support of the override. “However,” she said, “it will be hard on my pocketbook.”

Greta Jochem can be reached at gjochem@gazettenet.com.


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