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Town Meeting Recap: Night 1

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More than 545 Hopkinton residents filled the Middle School auditorium tonight to attend Annual Town Meeting. It was a night without much controversy or debate, in spite of voters approving several million dollars of tax increases.

At 7:15 PM Town Meeting 2023 was called to order by Moderator Ellen Rutter. Seated before her were members of the Select Board, Town Manager Norman Khumalo, Town CFO Tim O’Leary and members of the Appropriations Committee. To her left were Town Clerk Connor Degan and Bryan Bertram, General Counsel for the town. 

“We are neighbors before, and we will be neighbors after Town Meeting,” Rutter reminded the audience.

Rutter led off with a motion to move all of the DPW-related articles to the top of the agenda. The motion carried and articles 20, 21, 41, 42, 43, 44, and 45 were advanced. 

Next a motion was introduced to move articles 2, 3, 8, 9, 10, 11, 24, 30, 37, and 39 to the Consent Agenda, a procedural mechanism employed to speed the meeting up. The motion passed. 

In fact, in spite of significant spending increases, every motion that was advanced tonight passed, and most with limited discussion. 

Budget

Appropriations Committee chair Michael Manning presented the annual operating budget of $108,589,950 and it was approved, resulting in a 2.9% tax increase for residents. For the average Hopkinton home, which is valued at $753,000, this will add another $345 to their existing $11,599 tax bill.

Continuing the budget discussion, Superintendent of Schools Carol Cavanaugh shared several metrics around enrollment. Hopkinton Schools has 4,209 students enrolled but the projection was for 4,160. The district’s demographer projects that enrollment will reach 4,745 by 2030. In 2023, 5.7% of students are English-language learners, up from 0.8% in 2010 and 6.7% of students are low-income vs. 1.8% in 2010.

Although Hopkinton ranks #286 in the state in per-pupil spending at $15,870, it ranks #2 on Niche’s rating of best public schools in Massachusetts. Dr. Cavanaugh received a round of applause following her presentation.

The school budget of $63 million – of which $45 million goes to salaries – passed unanimously.

The articles to replace the HVAC system at the schools ($1.5 million) and for engineering and design of an addition for the Hopkins school ($3 million) also passed.

Land, Development & Public Safety

Article 24, which contemplated building a cricket pitch at the Fruit Street complex ($1.9 million), and making various other improvements passed. Voters also approved the second motion in Article 24 to purchase the land on Saddle Hill Road for open space.

Article 25, the Inclusionary Development Bylaw passed with a standing vote count. There were 287 votes for and 9 votes against.

Articles 15 and 16, which will build sidewalks on Chestnut Street and from EMC Park to Blueberry Lane also passed.

Article 17, which sought to approve an engineering plan for Fire Station 2 ($70,000) passed without debate, which was surprising given the public discussion that preceded tonight’s meeting.

At the 11:00 hour Rutter moved to adjourn the meeting, with it scheduled to resume Tuesday night at 7:00 PM. Still left to discuss are several potentially controversial items, including Short Term rental bylaws, gun clubs, and the dissolution of the Upper Charles Trail Committee.

Watch the full replay courtesy of our friends at HCAM (whose funding was approved tonight).

Sunnyside Gardens

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