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Brookline voters approve tax increases for schools

Brookline voters Tuesday night overwhelmingly voted to override Proposition 2 1/2 and permanently increase the town's tax levy by $7.7 million, primarily to pay for a 35 percent enrollment increase over the past decade.

In addition, voters agreed by an even wider margin to exclude the debt from the limits of Proposition 2 1/2 to pay for a new Devotion School.

"The win was good for the town, it now puts us in a stable financial position for the future," said Selectman Neil Wishinsky, co-chair of the Yes for Brookline Committee.

With nearly one-third of the town's 35,118 registered voters heading to the polls, the override question passed with 6,308 votes in favor, and 3,956 opposed. The debt exclusion passed with 8,173 voting in favor, and 1,947 opposed.

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The two-months long campaign was hard-fought, with those opposed, including the Campaign for a Better Override committee, arguing that the $7.6 million override figure was too high and did not include any cost-saving measures. They argued for what they called a more reasonable $5.2 million to $5.7 million figure to be used.

Those in favor argued that the time has come to financially deal with the school's added enrollment, which represents a 35 percent jump in the past decade, and technology needs. Not doing so, they argued, would have resulted in class sizes rising to 30 students, and teacher layoffs, among other consequences.

"There is a real sea change in town requiring us to resize our school system, and that is what we did," Wishinsky said.

"It was a contentious campaign, and now it's time to take a deep breath and start putting our town back together, and coming together as a community as we always have," he said.

The yes votes means property taxes will increase 6.2 percent, and the owner of a single family median priced home valued at $1,193,600 will pay an additional $650, the owner of a median-priced condominium valued at $496,150 will pay a additional $200, and the owner of the median-priced commercial property valued at $1,350,600 will pay an additional $1,440.

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Ellen Ishkanian can be reached at eishkanian@gmail.com.