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Hamilton FinCom Votes to Oppose School Budget

Committee will meet Monday with selectmen to decide its position on schools keeping the $200,000 in reserves for next year.

The Hamilton Finance Committee voted unanimously Thursday night to recommend to the Board of Selectmen that it vote down the School Committee's request for $15.426 million at Town Meeting on June 27.

The dispute is over whether the Hamilton-Wenham Regional School District should keep $300,000 or $500,000 in its reserve funds next year. The balance would be returned to the taxpayers.

The Board of Selectmen and the Finance Committee will meet Monday to discuss the issue and try to develop a joint recommendation on the school budget.

Committee Chairman John McWane was asked by his committee members to write a position paper for the Town Meeting. He said he would wait until the selectmen vote on Monday before he spends time to write the paper.

His argument, which the finance committee agreed to, is that the School Committee overcharged the taxpayers by $1 million last year.

“If you overcharge the taxpayers, you have to give it back,” McWane said. “We are only asking that they give half of it back.”

At the Town Meeting, there is expected to be a battle between a group called Enough is Enough, which advocates for lower taxes and less spending, and a pro-school group called Save Our Schools, which supports higher funding levels for the schools.

The regional school committee voted to keep the higher amount of funds to deal with a potential $2 million “cliff” in school funding expected next year.

If the Town Meeting voters support a lower budget for the schools, the School Committee has 45 days to act on the revised budget.

Jennifer Sculeri, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, said this week, “We don't want this to take up the whole summer.”

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