Dear Peirce Community,
Hopefully by now you’ve heard about the Override! We believe it’s an important issue that impacts our school community and think everyone should be informed. To that end, we’ve put together a summary (below) that we hope will be helpful, especially if you’re not yet familiar with the topic. Our goal is to provide an overview, some context, and the relevance of the proposed override to Newton Public Schools and our community. We recognize that this is a complex issue with many differing opinions! Thus, the summary is not intended to advocate for a particular position, nor is it comprehensive. For those who are interested in more details or perspectives, we’ve shared additional resources in the summary that may be helpful.
Next Tuesday, March 14th, Newton residents will be asked to vote on 3 ballot questions to increase taxes to provide additional funding for public projects and operations, including $4.5 million for the Newton Public Schools (NPS) operating budget that will help NPS maintain the current student experience with respect to class size, student and teacher support, technology, and course offerings, among other things.
Please note that if you’ve voted at Peirce in the past, your polling location has changed to Temple Shalom, across the street from Peirce on Temple Street.
To find out how the override would impact your property taxes, use the Tax Calculator. Visit the city of Newton’s website for more details about the proposed override. To learn more about available tax assistance programs in Newton, click here.
Peirce PTO Summary of the Proposed Tax Override for Newton
What is an Override?
Massachusetts has a limit on the revenue a municipality can raise from property taxes. Towns can only exceed this limit if a majority of the voters agree to “override” the limit. On Tuesday, March 14th, Newton residents will be asked to vote on 3 ballot questions to increase taxes to provide additional funding for public projects and operations, including for Newton Public Schools (NPS).
Question 1 (Q1) is an operating override totaling $9,175,000 providing: (1) funds for the NPS Operating Budget; (2) funding for Horace Mann Elementary School building expansion; and (3) funding for streets & sidewalks, parks, fields, & playgrounds, sustainability & climate resilience, and senior services.
Specifically, Q1 would provide:
- $4.5 million for NPS to help keep the budget somewhat level to what it is this year
- $775,000 for Horace Mann update and expansion
- $1 million for parks, fields and playgrounds
- $500,000 for sustainability and climate resilience – new Peirce boiler is included here
- $500,000 for seniors – hire staff for the senior programming, transportation
- $500,000 for trees
- $1.4 million for streets
If Q1 passes, it would provide a permanent tax increase. Although the mayor is legally obligated to use the funds as allocated in the override during the first year, there is no requirement for the funds to be allocated the same way in year 2 and beyond. (Funds designated for the Horace Mann project will be for 30 year bonds, which means that the money can be used for something else after 30 years.)
Question 2 (Q2) is a debt exclusion override for $2.3M to pay for bonds issued to rebuild Countryside Elementary School. Massachusetts is expected to pay 25-30% of the cost of the Countryside project because this school building has been identified as being one of the worst in the state.
Question 3 (Q3) is a debt exclusion override for $3.5M to pay for bonds issued to rebuild Franklin Elementary School.
If Q2 and Q3 pass, they would provide a temporary tax increase that starts upon initiation of the building projects (in approximately 7 years) and lasts for the life of the bonds (~30 years).
How Have Newton & Neighboring Towns Previously Utilized Overrides?
- Since 2000, Newton voters have passed 2 overrides in 2002 and 2013, and rejected one in 2008. Ten years ago, in 2013, Newton voted for an $11.4M override which included an $8.4M operating override to support public works, the fire and police departments, and NPS (more teachers and resources, maintain smaller class size, implement full day kindergarten, and Zervas construction) and $3M in debt exclusions to rebuild Angier and Cabot elementary schools.
- Several of our neighboring communities have also passed annual overrides to increase their revenue. For example, since 2000, Brookline has raised $20.5M through 3 operating overrides, slightly more than Newton has raised with 2 operating overrides totaling $19.9M. Wellesley has raised $17.3M through 7 operating overrides, while Needham has passed 6 operating overrides that raised nearly $13M.
What Is the Impact of the Operating Override (Question 1) on NPS?
If Question 1 (Q1) passes, NPS expects to be able to maintain most of the current student experience with the $4.5M allocation, including: optimal class size; preservation of mental and social-emotional supports; continuation of current academic and extracurricular programming; 1:1 technology for all students; and professional development opportunities for staff. However, even if Q1 passes, NPS anticipates a smaller budget shortfall of about $2M, which could still require some cuts, increased fees for busing and extracurriculars, and less funding available for building maintenance.
If Question 1 does not pass, NPS expects a significant budget shortfall of about $6M which the district says would lead to deep and meaningful cuts in 4 main areas:
- Classroom Personnel: Elimination of 40-50 teachers, which could mean larger class sizes, up to 29 students in grades 2 and above; increased caseloads for guidance counselors and SEL professionals; fewer course offerings; waitlists for high school classes and specialized electives; and more free time blocks and study halls in the high school schedule.
- Non Personnel Expenses: Discontinuation of 1:1 technology in all grades; limitation of summer maintenance for schools to only life/safety mandated improvements; system-wide reduction of professional development; and non-core academic programs would be affected.
- Extracurricular Activities: Sports, music programs, theater groups, and clubs where participation isn’t that high could be cut in middle and high schools.
- Administration and Operations: There would be a reduction in central staff, district and school-based supervisors, and support staff, which could mean fewer custodians, administrative assistants, and transportation specialists.
For more details about potential cuts resulting from the $6M budget gap, take a look at the NPS FY24 Budget Planning Update, which was presented to the School Committee on March 1st.
- The Proposed Override is a complex and multifaceted issue, with differing and strong opinions in support and in opposition. If you’d like to learn more about the local groups who support or oppose the Proposed Override, and the reasons for their perspectives, check out Yes For Newton or No Override Newton. In addition, The Newton Beacon is a local, independent news source that is providing special election coverage, including perspectives on both sides of the issue.
- Visit the city of Newton’s website for more details about the proposed override, as well as answers to frequently asked questions. To find out how the override would impact your property taxes, use the Tax Calculator. You can also learn more about available tax assistance programs in Newton on the city’s website.
Don’t forget that Tuesday, March 14th is election day! Please note that if you have voted at Peirce in the past, your polling location has changed to Temple Shalom, across the street from Peirce on Temple Street.
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