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Tax hikes to repair schools pass at Hamilton Special Town Meeting

Two Proposition 2½ debt exclusions totaling approximately $2 million for the repair of facilities in the Hamilton-Wenham Regional School District gained the required two-thirds support at Saturday’s Special Town Meeting in Hamilton.

 The proposals next go to a vote in Wenham, where at an Oct. 27 Special Town Meeting residents will be asked to support debt exclusions — property tax increases for the length of time to pay off debt — that would allow the towns to borrow $2.08 million for two projects. If the proposals are supported by a two-thirds majority there, the final step for approval would be the Nov. 6 general election in both towns.

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   In a show of voting cards deemed unanimous, Hamilton residents first supported a $575,000 repair of the roof at the Cutler Elementary School in Hamilton, a project that could be eligible for 43.42 percent reimbursement from the Massachusetts School Building Authority.

   The second debt exclusion was $1.5 million for repairs, including replacement of the roof, at the Winthrop Elementary School, also in Hamilton, and installation of insulation and a fire suppression system at Buker Elementary School in Wenham. The two-thirds majority was declared by Hamilton moderator Bruce Ramsey after a show of cards.

The projects represent about half of the deferred maintenance needs in the school district, which the two towns hope to address in the next two years, school and town officials have said.

“I think Town Meeting recognized the need for these long-delayed projects to be attended to,” said Michael Lombardo, town manager in Hamilton. “I think people are look forward to getting these buildings back into good repair, and working on a system to keep them that way in the future.”

The 121 residents who turned out for the Hamilton Town Meeting dispatched 12 articles in one hour and 45 minutes.

According to information provided by the school district, if bonding for the full $2,075,000 is approved, at 4 percent interest over 20 years, the yearly added cost to the average homeowner would be $31.54 in Hamilton and $32.62 in Wenham.

In Hamilton, the average property value for fiscal 2012 — which ended June 30 — was $461,200, with a tax bill of $7,988. In Wenham, the average property value was $536,100 with a tax bill of $9,591.

David Rattigan can be reached at DRattigan­­
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