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Lynn voters say no to two new schools

Lynn School Superintendent Catherine Latham (left) and Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy at the Pickering Middle School in Lynn, which was built in 1916.John Blanding/Globe Staff

A week after a storm delayed a special election, Lynn voters Tuesday soundly rejected a $188.5 million Proposition 2½ debt exclusion to build two new middle schools. Voter turnout was just 16.3 percent.

The city clerk reported 63 percent of voters rejected Question 1 on the ballot, which would have allowed Lynn to borrow $188.5 million to design and build the new schools. And 64 percent voted no on Question 2, which specified the money raised would build the schools on two specific sites.

The Massachusetts School Building Authority had approved paying up 80 percent of eligible costs. City officials estimated that the average homeowner would have paid an additional $200 in taxes annually for 25 years to cover Lynn’s portion of the project.

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Had they passed, the votes would have replaced the 101-year-old Pickering Middle School with a new school on city-owned land on Parkland Avenue. A second middle school, on city-owned land at 140 Commercial St., would have been built in West Lynn to accommodate significant student growth.

“We held a similar vote several years ago for the Thurgood Marshall Middle School, and it passed overwhelmingly,” said Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy. “I suspect this failed because instead of replacing the Pickering Middle School as we original sought in our Statement of Interest to the MSBA, the MSBA determined that we had to build a school or schools triple the size of the one we originally sought to replace the Pickering. The anticipated price tag more than doubled as well, and I suspect the voters found the price tag to be beyond their comfort level.”

The citizen group Protect Our Reservoir, Preserve Pine Grove actively campaigned against the debt exclusion because members said the Parkland Avenue site could damage the Breeds Pond Reservoir off Parkland Avenue and the project was too expensive.

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Lynn had 120 days from Feb. 15, the date of the MSBA approval, to secure local funding.

“I am greatly disappointed that the vote to build two new middle schools in Lynn has failed,” said School Superintendent Catherine Latham. “In my opinion, the greatest investment a city can make is for the education of its children. Apparently, our residents are unable to make such a investment at this time . . . however, I will continue to work with the MSBA and the city to examine possible solutions to our school needs.”


Linda Greenstein can be reached at greensteinlm
@gmail.com
.