All posts by Nancy Cavanaugh

eHop Board Member 2015-16

School Budget Update

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The Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Cathy MacLeod has presented a total preliminary budget for FY 17 of $39,143,441, representing a 4.31% increase over the FY 16 budget.  However, School Departments will continue to present their parts of the budget separately to the School Committee at the December 17 and January 7 meetings, with a public hearing on the budget scheduled for January 21.  By February 1, the School Committee will vote to adopt its FY 17 budget, allowing time for the community input along the way.

According to the Superintendent’s budget summary, the proposed budget includes, “increased staffing to support priority initiatives: reading coaches, English Language Learner teachers, Elementary Adjustment Counselor, BCBA [Board Certified Behavior Analyst], and Maintenance,” as well as “school facilities that support effective instruction: High School physics lab and library, Middle School engineering classroom, and painting, carpeting and lockers.”

At Center School, Principal Lauren Dubeau requested a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) clinician as well as an additional .5 intensive special needs teacher.  According to the proposed budget, there are currently 8 students requiring intensive special needs for FY 17, with a high level of need, including an alternate curriculum, general education modifications, daily data collection and communication with families. 

Center and Elmwood Schools put in for a shared literacy coach.  In the budget request explained, “A literacy coach is a professional development liaison to the school to support, model and continuously improve instructional programs to assure reading improvement for all students.”

Elmwood School also requested an increase in the number of moderate learning specialists from 5.5 FTE to 6.0 FTE in order to increase the number of co-taught classroom from 1 per grade to 2 per grade for a total of 4 in the building.  This increase would also reportedly allow increased flexibility to offer inclusion services in a wider range of classrooms. 

Hopkins requested the addition of an Adjustment Counselor to provide social-emotional support to regular and special education classes.  According to the executive summary of the Hopkins proposed budget, “Student need, as evidenced by student surveys and teacher/parent referrals for support, has been increasing at Hopkins.”

This Thursday, December 17, Middle School, High School and the Athletics Department will present their preliminary budgets at the School Committee meeting which begins at 7:00 in the Middle School library.  There is an opportunity to express opinions to the School Committee during the public comment portions of the meeting or the School Committee may be reached by email at hpsschoolcommittee@hopkinton.k12.ma.us.  The January 21 public hearing of the School Committee is another opportunity to express opinions, priorities or concerns about the budget proposals before the School Committee votes to adopt a budget.

Budget Documents for Your Reference:

New School Vote – Results & Next Steps

Article 1 - New School - Exterior View from Southeast

Question 1 – New Elementary School PASSES

  • Yes 1211
  • No 431

After passing both the Special Town Meeting and Special Town Election votes by overwhelming majorities, the new elementary school has kicked off into the next phase– design development. During the design development phase, the Elementary School Building Committee will work with DRA architects and Compass Project Management to go deeper in detail on each element of the school’s site and building design.  The detailed design will elaborate on the schematic design plans already completed with more complex and specific details.  With funding now secure, the Elementary School Building Committee (ESBC) approved contract amendments at their November 12 meeting for both Compass and DRA to extend the contracts through construction phases.

ESBC Chair, Joe Markey said, “The ESBC is happy with the results [of the Special Town Election] and eager to move forward with the community on this important project.  While the nature of the work changes as we move into detailed design, the ESBC remains committed to the principles of inclusiveness and engagement that earned the project the level of community trust that the recent votes demonstrate.”

According to the schedule the ESBC has set, construction on the new school will break ground in the fall of 2016 for a September 2018 opening.

Article #1 Elementary School Building Project

The first article up at the October 26 Special Town Meeting will be to vote on appropriating money to build a new elementary school to replace the existing Center School.  Because it will be funded by a debt exclusion, it must pass by a 2/3 majority vote at the Special Town Meeting and again by a simple majority at the November 9 Special Election in order to go forward. 

While the town must approve the total cost of the $43,229,373 needed to build the school, the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) has approved a grant to reimburse the town up to $14,058,457 of the eligible costs, which would leave the town’s projected share of the cost to build the school at $29,170,916. 

According to the Committee Chairman, Joe Markey, the Elementary School Building Committee (ESBC) has estimated that in the first year, the highest cost per taxpayer will be about $435 per $500,000 assessed property value.  The actual cost will depend on the exact terms of the loan, including whether the town opts for a 20 or 30 year bond and could be as much as $100 less than the highest case scenario.  The Town Manager and Treasurer will determine the terms of the loan at the time of borrowing and make a recommendation to the Board of Selectmen for approval.  If the Town opts for a 30 year loan, the annual cost per tax payer will be less, but the town will pay more in interest over the life of the loan.  The cost per year will likely decline with successive years over the life of the loan.

The proposed new school will house 22 kindergarten and first grade classrooms in an 83,256 square foot building that will also include rooms for the integrated preschool, music, art and health rooms that the Center School cannot accommodate due to size constraints.  For comparison, the Center School is 52,000 square feet while the Hopkinton High School is 190,000 square feet.  Elmwood and Hopkins are each about 80,000 square feet.  The new school site also has the capacity to add 10 additional classrooms if the school sees a significant and sustained increase in enrollment down the road. 

The Board of Selectmen has begun to examine potential future uses for the Center School, but a decision regarding Center School’s future will not likely be made until about 2017, a year before the projected opening of the new school if approved this fall. 

A decision has also yet to be made regarding the use of the so-called Todaro property which the Town purchased following the May Annual Town Meeting.  While the property abuts the site for the proposed new school, it is not part of the plans for the new school. 

On the other side, the proposed school abuts EMC park and a lighted path would both provide emergency egress for the school and allow for reciprocal overflow parking between the properties for events such as baseball games at the park or curriculum night at the school.  According to Superintendent Dr. Cathy MacLeod, the school was also designed to allow community use in areas such as the gym, cafertorium and media center year round while school is not in session. 

The ESBC will offer an additional opportunity for voters to ask questions during their office hours at Water Fresh Farm on October 21 from 4:30-6:30.

Article #8 – Fruit Street Indoor Recreational Facility

Article 8 - Fruit Street Indoor Athletic Facility

The Parks and Recreation Commission sponsored Article 8 of the Special Town Meeting to appropriate $500,000 to build an indoor practice and recreation facility on the Fruit street Athletic Field Complex.  If passed, the athletic facility will be connected to the pavillion which was already approved for construction funding at the May Annual Town Meeting.  While the pavilion will include rest rooms, concessions, and storage space, the indoor indoor practice facility was intended as stage two of the project, and was scrapped from the May meeting because of some unclear wording in the text of the original draft warrant. Additionally, the phase one part of the project used money from the Community Preservation Act, which an indoor practice facility could not. 

According to Parks and Recreation Director, Jay Guelfi,  “Our feeling is that building the entire structure at once will be more economically and operationally efficient.”  Parks and Recreation has been working with an engineering firm for the plans for the front half of the building that was already approved, but they hope if this article passes at Special Town Meeting, that they will be able to construct the entire facility at once.  They would reportedly save the town money by avoiding having to set up a construction area twice if they can build it in its entirety now.   

The facility is expected to serve the needs of in-town sports teams at a low cost and be available for private youth sports groups such as private club softball, baseball, soccer and lacrosse groups to rent, which could generate significant revenue to sustain and fully maintain the building and facilities.  Parks and Rec also plans to use the proposed facility to start some new town programs such as volleyball and wrestling. 

Like the proposed new school, this building will be funded by a debt exclusion and will require both a 2/3 vote at the October 26 Special Town Meeting and a simple majority vote at the November 9 Special Election.  Because of the massive difference in cost between this and the proposed new school, this project would have a much smaller taxpayer impact per $500,000 of assessed property value. 

Question 1: DPW Facility

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Question 1: Shall the Town of Hopkinton be allowed to be exempt from the provisions of proposition two and one-half, so-called, the amounts required to pay for the bond issued in order to construct a new Department of Public Works headquarters facility?

Voters at Town Meeting voted to borrow $14.1 million to construct a new DPW headquarters facility to be located at 83 Wood Street, but for the project to go forward, the voters must also pass a debt exclusion at the ballot under proposition 2 1/2 to authorize a temporary increase in the Town’s levy limit to cover the cost of borrowing for this facility.

  • A “yes” vote would approve the funds and the project could proceed.
  • A “no” vote would mean that the Town could not borrow the funds to proceed with the project without a future affirmative ballot vote within 90 days.

If the question passes, it is estimated to cost the average household $157 per year for the life of the loan.  Unlike operating budget overrides, debt exclusions do not cause a permanent increase in the tax base and do not affect the base upon which succeeding years’ tax levy is collected.

The DPW is responsible for:

  • 125 miles of roads
  • 65 miles of water mains
  • 35 miles of sewer
  • 666 hydrants
  • 18 acres of cemeteries
  • 14 acres of parks and fields
  • Maintenance of DPW fleet, valued at $3.9 million
  • on-call for emergencies 24 hours a day

According to the Permanent Building Committee (PBC) and the DPW, the existing facility:

  • is inadequate and in need of repairs
  • has insufficient space to house modern DPW equipment
  • has an inadequate fuel facility to serve town vehicles
  • lacks storage areas that impact the Town’s ability to protect their multi-million dollar fleet,  allowing equipment to deteriorate more quickly than if protected from the elements.

Following the approval of $250,000 at the 2013 Annual Town Meeting to prepare preliminary design and cost estimates, the PBC and DPW evaluated 8 different site layouts and building arrangements before determining the Wood Street site and the proposed design best fit their needs.

If approved, the new 41,000 square foot facility would have trade shops, wash bays and places for vehicle maintenance and storage as well as work space for DPW employees.  It would also include a fuel facility that would service DPW trucks as well as police, fire and other town vehicles.

Question 4: 147 Hayden Rowe Street – Todaro Property

Article 44 - Acquisition of Property at 147 Hayden Rowe Street - Todaro Site - 23.8 acres - $1.5 million
Ballot Question 4 – Acquisition of Property at 147 Hayden Rowe Street – Todaro Site – 23.8 acres – $1.5 million

Question 4: Shall the Town be allowed to be exempt from the provisions of proposition two and one-half, so-called, the amounts required to pay for the bond issued in order to acquire a fee interest in a parcel of land located at 147 Hayden Rowe. 

Annual Town Meeting voted to borrow $1.5 million for the purchase of this property, consisting of approximately 23.8 acres of land on property commonly known as the Todaro Parcel.  To borrow the money the town must also pass a debt exclusion under proposition 2 1/2, authorizing a temporary increase in the town’s levy to cover the cost of borrowing.

Debt exclusions like the one sought here differ from proposition 2 1/2 overrides for operating budget increases in that they only cause an increase in the levy for the life of the loan and they do not affect the base upon which future years’ tax levy will be determined.

  • A “yes” vote would approve the expenditure and allow the town to purchase the land.
  • A “no” vote would mean that the Town could not borrow the funds to proceed with the project without a future affirmative ballot vote within 90 days.

The Todaro parcel abuts Water Fresh Farm and the Irvine property, the site selected for the proposed new elementary school building.  Proponents of this question cite the unique opportunity to acquire the land which is conveniently located in proximity to the schools and could house many different town functions.  The purchase of the property is expected to cost the average single family home owner $34 in the first year, with an expected loan of 10 years.