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    Towns pass tax hikes to fund local projects

    Broadacres Farm along Morse Road in Sudbury. (Beth Suedmeyer)
    Beth Suedmeyer
    Sudbury approved a debt exclusion by 5,924 to 3,011 votes to purchase Broadacres Farm.

    Voters in several towns on Tuesday agreed to tax increases to fund local projects, including a new $295 million high school in Belmont and a $90 million elementary school in Wareham.

    With all the focus on state and national elections, local tax-related ballot questions also claimed attention in the region. In all, seven debt exclusions — or tax increases that last for as long as it takes to pay off the debt — earned thumbs-up from voters.

    Approved by a vote of 9,534 to 2,962, the Belmont debt exclusion would fund the town’s share of constructing a new high school serving grades 7 to 12. The plan still needs an appropriation vote by a Special Town Meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 13, according to Bill Lovallo, chairman of the High School Building Committee.

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    “The outcome is a testament to what a large majority of Belmont voters said is the right thing we need to do for our students in the entire district,” Lovallo said, noting that the project would help all the town’s schools meet the challenges of enrollment growth while providing “a modern facility that meets the needs of our student population for decades to come.”

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    The Massachusetts School Building Authority has agreed to fund up to $80.6 million of the project, leaving the town’s share at $214.5 million. The debt exclusion would add $1,810 to the annual tax bill for an average single-family home valued at about $1 million for 30 years.

    Wareham’s debt exclusion, adopted by 5,143 votes to 3,670, is to replace the Minot Forest and John W. Decas elementary schools with a new prekindergarten to fourth-grade school. Town Meeting last month authorized spending for the project.

    “I appreciate all of the work completed to date by the building committee and am very grateful to the voters of Wareham,” School Superintendent Kim Shaver-Hood said by e-mail.

    On Dec. 12, the MSBA board will vote on whether to help fund the project. The state reimbursement is projected at up to $51.8 million, leaving the town’s share at $38.6 million. The debt exclusion would add $211.68 to the annual tax bill of an average single-family home — valued at about $258,000 — for 20 years.

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    By 10,332 to 4,949 votes, Needham approved a debt exclusion for a new combined police and fire headquarters in Needham Center to replace the existing facility, and a new fire station to replace the existing Needham Heights station.

    Town Meeting had authorized the $70 million plan, which will add on average $388 to the annual tax bill of an average home worth close to $905,000 for the 30-year borrowing period.

    “Town officials greatly appreciate this vote of confidence and we look forward to getting to work on the project,” said Dan Matthews, chairman of the Board of Selectmen.

    Natick approved a debt exclusion, by a vote of 12,114 to 4,193 for a new West Natick fire station to replace the existing one. Town Meeting had authorized $15.5 million for the plan, which would add $75 to $85 to the annual tax bill of an average single-family home valued at about $571,000 for 20 years.

    “A big thank you is owed to Natick’s residents . . . for listening to the need for this capital project and voting to support it,” Town Administrator Melissa Malone said by e-mall.

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    In Ashland, residents voted 4,868 to 2,310 to pay $3.5 million for a project manager and engineering and design services for the planned construction of a new downtown public safety building. The measure would add $30 to the annual average bill for a single-family home — which is currently $7,217 — for 20 years. A Special Town Meeting Nov. 28 still needs to appropriate the funds.

    State Senate President Karen Spilka, an Ashland Democrat, secured a $25 million state bond to fund the construction of the new combined police and fire station replacing the existing stations on Main Street. Fafard Real Estate has agreed to donate the land, said Selectman Joseph Joseph J. Magnani Jr.

    By 1,877 to 1,360 votes, Merrimac approved a debt exclusion for a new police station. Town Meeting had authorized $6.5 million for the project, which will add $200 to the annual tax bill of an average home valued at close to $354,900 over 25 years.

    Sudbury approved a debt exclusion by 5,924 to 3,011 votes to purchase a 34-acre horse farm that the town plans to use for a combination of open space, recreation, and possible other municipal uses.

    Town Meeting had appropriated $5.5 million for the acquisition, of which $3.5 million would come from the debt exclusion and $2 million from Community Preservation Act funds. For an average home valued at $727,000, the 20-year surcharge would add $53 in the first year, decreasing to $30 annually in the final year.

    “We are very pleased,” Town Manager Melissa Murphy-Rodrigues said. “The town recognized what an important parcel this property is.”

    Three debt exclusions were defeated at the polls after spending requests for the projects failed at town meetings.

    Those included a second request in Sudbury for $1.9 million to fund design and engineering of a new Fairbank Community Center, which lost by 4,595 votes to 4,200 at the election.

    A proposed debt exclusion in Boxford for a $25.4 million municipal building plan lost by a vote of 2,533 to 1,494.

    By a margin of 2,532 to 1,445, Newbury voters rejected a debt exclusion for a new $12 million combined police station and town hall. 

    11zotaxvotes -- A rendering. The Belmont 7-12 School will be a middle school and high school Ð each in separate wings of the building Ð that will be built for a design enrollment of 2,215 students. The new school will eliminate the need for school renovations to BelmontÕs other five schools in order to solve districtwide overcrowding. (Belmont High School Building Committee)
    Belmont High School Building Committee
    A rendering of the $295 million grades 7-12 school proposed in Belmont.

    John Laidler can be reached at laidler@globe.com.