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Newton making lists after tax hike passes

The Newton Police Department has started recruiting new officers, and the school superintendent will include 51 additional teachers and aides in his upcoming budget proposal, as city officials put in place spending plans for the additional taxes voters approved last week.

“We’ve hit the ground running,” Mayor Setti Warren said Wednesday, a day after voters passed the city’s first override of Proposition 2 ½ in more than a decade. Voters approved all three questions totaling $11.4 million.

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The tax increases will help pay for additional staff, the rebuilding of three elementary schools, new Fire Department buildings, and the repaving of streets and sidewalks.

“I am truly excited for the opportunities that the override will provide to our students and staff,” schools Superintendent David Fleishman wrote in a community letter sent to parents. Fleishman will present his budget plan for the 2013-2014 school year to the public on Monday.

But late last week, Warren chose to replace the city’s public buildings commissioner, whose department will oversee the construction projects. Warren announced Thursday that Stephanie Kane Gilman, hired in 2010, had been let go.

Also leaving is Robert Barrett, the city’s first chief information officer, hired in July.

“It was my decision for them not to work at City Hall,” Warren said in an interview, adding that Gilman’s departure will not affect the major building projects the city is launching.

“It’s not going to,” Warren said. “We have expert project managers on staff.”

Newton voters approved two debt exclusions, or temporary tax increases, totaling $3 million, to help build the new Angier and Cabot elementary schools. Voters also passed an $8.4 million permanent tax increase to pay for three new Fire Department buildings, an expanded Zervas Elementary School, road repairs, more modular classrooms, four new police officers, and the additional teaching staff. The debt exclusions last only until the construction loans are repaid, about 30 years.

The $8.4 million increase passed on a vote of 9,649 to 8,199, the tax increase to ­rebuild Angier Elementary School passed 9,904 to 7,893, and the tax increase to pay for Cabot Elementary passed 9,879 to 7,919, according to unofficial results.

While the vote was closer than some supporters expected, Newton School Committee chairwoman Claire Sokoloff said the victory illustrated that residents trusted their city leaders and supported these projects. “This is a no-frills override,” she said. “It’s work that needs to be done.”

Sokoloff and other Newton officials promised that the additional tax revenue would be spent appropriately and transparently.

“The work will get done,” Sokoloff said. “It will get done well.”

With last Tuesday’s vote, taxes in Newton are set to increase by $343 annually, to $8,006 on a home with the median-assessed value of $686,000.

Plans for some of the new schools and emergency buildings that will be constructed with this additional tax revenue are already underway.

Newton plans to use state money, as well the override money, to build the Angier and Cabot elementary school projects. The city intends to expand Zervas Elementary School without any state aid.

Newton will present schematic design plans for the new Angier Elementary School to the Massachusetts School Building Authority later this month and will ask for state help to rebuild Cabot Elementary in April, said Maureen Lemieux, the city’s chief financial officer.

The city is also ordering new modular classrooms for Bowen, Mason-Rice, Horace Mann, and Burr elementary schools that will be added in the fall, Fleishman said.

Architects are working on a new building to house communications wiring equipment and construction on that facility will being this year, said Fire Chief Bruce Proia.

The Warren administration is also putting together a team to make plans for the Newton Centre Fire Station and headquarters buildings, Proia said.

Deirdre Fernandes can be reached at deirdre.fernandes@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @fernandesglobe.
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