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Hamilton Voters to Decide on Budget, Patton Gift and Water Infrastructure

The Annual Town Meeting in Hamilton starts at Hamilton-Wenham Regional High School on Saturday at 9 a.m.

Hamilton voters on Saturday morning will decide on the 2013 school and town budget, whether to accept the gift of the Patton estate and have their say on millionof dollars worth of improvements planned for the water infrastructure.

The full warrant for the meeting, with a list of all 27 warrant articles, is attached to this article. Some of the artciles that are "not controversial" can be bundled together in a consent agenda in Article 1-3 that allows several of the artciles can all be voted at once.

The meeting starts at 9 a.m. in the auditorium at .

The $24.8 million town and school budget is Article 2-15. As part of that article, voters will decide whether to back the School Committee’s proposed budget – – or will consider other options, including a so-called “giveback” of money from its excess and deficiency fund” at the start of the fiscal year versus a "giveback" after the money is certified by state officials in the fall.

Article 2-15 will ask voters to approve up to a $5 million bond to pay for improvements to the water system. The bond would be paid from water rates, and not from taxes.

Article 5-1 will be where voters decide . The Patton Family Gift Advisory Committee has been meeting to determine the best use for the property, .

A citizen’s petition also asks voters to approve spending $19,500 on a study to create plans for a bicycle and walking path along Essex Street.

The decision to sell a parcel of land off Lake Drive, on Pleasant Pond, will also go before voters in Article 5-4. Six years ago Town Meeting authorized selling the land and it was moving ahead earlier this year, , outlining their concern that if sold it could cut off important access to the pond.

Live coverage of the meeting is coming to Hamilton-Wenham Patch, with updates on our live blog here on Patch on Saturday morning.

Jay Burnham May 11, 2012 at 11:06 AM
The high property tax rates in Hamilton and Wenham are having a significantly negative effect on home values in both towns. Every week I hear other REALTORs mention that their buyer prospects are circumventing Hamilton and Wenham to look instead at neighboring towns…because of the high tax rate. It is critically important that voters seize the opportunity to reduce the tax rate as soon as possible and reverse the trend. An immediate return of $500k from the school district's underspent funds could lower the tax rates in both towns significantly. I would urge residents to attend Town Meeting and support the Board of Selectmen and the Finance Committee's decision to require the school district to return that portion ($500k) to the taxpayers immediately - not wait until the fall. ....Jay Burnham, Past President North Shore Association of REALTORs
Michelle Bailey May 11, 2012 at 11:31 AM
The Hamilton Finance Committee voted on May 10 to support the Budget proposed by the School Committee and approved in Wenham. Please check your facts. An extended budget battle is not in the best interest of either town. The new superintendent should be able to walk in the door in July with an approved budget not a battle of wills. So yes, please go to town meeting to make decisions about how the issues will affect your tax rate and the quality of life in the community.
Jay Burnham May 11, 2012 at 12:36 PM
Michelle...Please check YOUR facts. Both Boards of Selectmen and FinComs support(ed) a return of unspent funds to the taxpayers. And even the School Committee has agreed it should be returned, as a portion was last year. It's simply a question of WHEN...now or in the fall. All four boards support(ed) a return of a portion of the funds, in this case $500k, now...NOT later...so that it could be applied toward reducing the property tax rates sooner, not later. There's no "budget battle" looming. It's simply a matter of timing of the return of unspent funds. You should know better than to try to dramatize the event.
Michelle Bailey May 11, 2012 at 10:45 PM
Jay, get up to speed...the FinCom voted last night 2 to 1 to support the newly adopted school budget as approved by the voters of Wenham. You are correct, the towns are asking the schools to pay them now even though they do not have access to the unspent funds until Nov. or later. Demanding a give-back now is short-sighted. It puts the district at risk for loosing their excellent bond rating and for unanticipated costs. If the towns demand an advance on those funds, the schools will have to defer many of the maintenance projects recommended by the towns capital management committee. If everyone agrees the projects need to be done, shouldn't the towns and schools be working together to do so?
Jay Burnham May 12, 2012 at 12:17 AM
There's that same old tired phrase we hear every year at school budget time: "unanticipated costs". Can't you come up with another catch phrase? You know, maybe something like "unexpected expenses" or "putting things at risk" or "cuts in services" or "potential cash flow problem" or "the 2013 budget could push us over the cliff". Oh wait... you've already used those. The taxpayers have grown weary of the false claims. The schools won't have to defer any of the planned projects. The towns, just like last year, are only asking for a small portion of the over budgeted funds. Wake up Michelle.
Michelle Bailey May 12, 2012 at 12:45 AM
Fully awake! And couldn't agree more, we're all tired of saying the same thing over and over. At some point, people have to decide if they want to listen to facts or fiction. Fact...Brad Hill and Bruce Tarr warned the town officials on Monday at the Legislative Breakfast of possible 9C cuts next year (you can watch John Clemenzi's summary at the Wenham BOS meeting from Tues on HWCam.org)...that means cutting our state aid mid-year. How about that for an unanticipated revenue loss?
Tracy May 12, 2012 at 01:15 AM
To reiterate: the Hamilton fincom voted 2-1 last night to support the school budget, a vote for which middle-of-the-road voters are appreciative. Thank you fincom!
Jay Burnham May 12, 2012 at 09:33 AM
Michelle... If I agreed with you, we'd both be wrong. I can only imagine how hard it must be to suffer from cognitive dissonance. Enjoy Hamilton's Town Meeting today.
Jay Burnham May 12, 2012 at 06:52 PM
Excellent news today from the Hamilton Town Meeting! Reason prevailed and Hamilton residents voted to reduce Hamilton's share of the school budget by $285,683.00. Expect this to be complimented in Wenham by a reduction of their proportionate share (approximately $134,400.00) and we have ($420,000) close to the $500k the taxpayers were seeking from the school district to help reduce the burden of our high property tax rates in both towns. Congratulations Hamilton! And the funds for the summer maintenance projects?...including the ADA ramp it was suggested could not be funded if the towns did not approve the school budget as presented...Well, in fact they WILL be paid for despite the hue and cry expressed by some misinformed commenters. Have I got my facts right, MB? Am I up to speed? ;-) And in the fall, after the E&D funds have been certified, the district should be returning another $373,000 in unspent funds to the towns. I call that a win-win. It's almost exactly what we have been suggesting all along.
Dick Hewett May 12, 2012 at 09:40 PM
And what is left for the schools? More teachers fired, bigger classes and less courses on offer. At this rate, our school standards will have deteriorated so much that people will avoid coming here for quite a different reason.
Jay Burnham May 12, 2012 at 10:34 PM
Really Dick? What's left for the schools? How about $28,884,086? Did you get that? That's nearly $29 Million...with a capital M? Do you think that is enough for 2,000 students? And tell me how many teachers have been fired? Please do a little research before you post comments that are uneducated at best.
Mary May 13, 2012 at 12:08 AM
Dick, HW student teacher ratios have actually improved over the recent years, so we really have not cut anyone (we have one of the best ratios of teachers to students in the state). However, in the past few years we also "found" $750K cash to pay for the Cutler boiler, and this year, as was confirmed by the SC at town meetings, we have another $750K+ "leftover" that will be returned to the taxpayers in two steps. So, we have one of the best student teacher ratios and we still have $1.5M leftover in the budgets. In short, we have one of the best over funded schools system in the state and should stop crying poor. Note that our new superintendent comes from a district that outperformed HW in all types of testing and college readiness ratings (more AP) and is nationally recognized, and did it with a more efficient use of money and fewer teachers. Using money wisely should be our focus, and not over budgeting and then not spending it on the kids. Remember, this $1.5M "leftover" was approved in budgets to be spent on the kids, but wasn't used, so who really hurt the kids? Let's focus on a realistic, high power, best in class, efficient educational program that will make HW nationally recognized and stop crying poor.
Anne Sweeney May 13, 2012 at 06:32 PM
@Jim, If reason prevailed relative to savings, we would be back at $13-$14 per thousand tax rate. To impose a tax rate like this during a recession is tantamount to an economic dictatorship of which the end result is economic slavery. Perverse taxation is unpatriotic and theft from the people. The people need to march on Hamilton Town Hall and Roll back those rates to sensible levels. Then they need to cut, cut, and cut spending. You people don't get it, if we the people cannot afford our bills we lose our homes and our possesions. The same rule of law must be followed and adhered to by our representatives elected to manage our budgets. The Hamilton populace is comprised of a bunch of liberal milk toasts that will accept anything in the name of their children and they cower as scared school children when threatened by uncomfortable circumstances, hardship, or imposing austerity upon those who have come to the public trough and hoggishly taken entitlements well above what this community can afford.

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