Voters Reject OverrideSep 29, 2020 09:06AM ● By Susan Manning
The fiscal 2021 budget took a hit last month when voters rejected a tax override by 142 votes.
The override would have bridged a gap in the operating budget of roughly $1.3 million. It also would have been the second override in as many years. According to Town Administrator Diana Schindler, unlike like many other things, the deficit is not related to the current pandemic.
“Although we now face additional fiscal challenges operating [for an extended time] in COVID conditions. Fortunately, we have COVID funding to mitigate.
“The town and schools are taking full advantage of all federal/state monies to mitigate unanticipated COVID costs, but the override is unrelated and will not be covered,” she said.
While disappointed that the vote failed, members of the Board of Selectmen are ready to move forward. They issued the following statement:
“We want to thank those residents that took the time … for voting on the override. It is important to note that no matter how you voted that you voted, and we thank you.
“Hopedale has been, is and will continue to be a strong community with so much to offer all our residents, from our children to our elderly population.
“Our residents are very passionate and involved we hope they continue to stay involved.We, as your leaders of the town, promise to get back to work immediately and hope you provide us your support and continued guidance.”
One of the line items affected by the budget shortfall is the library. Bancroft Library Director Robyn York detailed the effects of the failed override.
“It is unfortunate for the town that the override did not pass. Having been a part of intensive budget discussions since January, I know departments have been making efforts to save money and cut costs, but for many departments there are set costs due to inspections, certifications and maintenance on old equipment and the only wiggle room is hours and people for cutting.
“As for the library, we are moving temporarily to a 5-percent reduced budget. That may change once we hear back from the town accountant. Patrons will see some reduced hours at the library, likely Thursday afternoons we will close. At present, patrons are still able to schedule appointments, receive curbside services, and order books through ILL.
“However, we will not meet our Municipal Appropriations Requirement (MAR) as determined by the MBLC. Like many libraries in the Commonwealth this year, we will be applying for a waiver. As long as we receive the waiver, we will maintain our library certification and still receive our state aid, which is around $8,000. If we don’t receive the waiver, then not only will we lose town funding due to the failed override, we will also lose state funding. If our library loses certification our patrons will not be able to use OverDrive ebooks from the shared collection and borrow materials from other libraries,” she said.
Schools in Hopedale would have represented part of the override, as well. Superintendent of Schools Karen Crebase concurred with Schindler, that budget shortfalls were not due to the pandemic.
“The town was having discussions about budget shortfalls prior to the pandemic. In February, I put forward the school budget proposal which included a 3.5% increase to the school budget. When developing a proposal, I attempt to present a budget that includes cost of living expected increases, maintains the integrity of our current programs and education, while also making recommendations for continued growth. After this meeting, it was requested that the schools, and other departments, plan for possible budget reductions for FY21. During an April 9, 2020, meeting with the School Committee and Finance Committee, the schools demonstrated the manner in which various budget cuts would impact the school budget,” she said.
Crebase said earlier last month That if the overnight field, the schools were looking at roughly $800,000 in cuts.
“If the schools were required to reduce our budget by $800,000, it would require us to reduce staff. If this were to occur, we would complete an analysis of all departments, all courses, all grade levels, and all positions to identify potential cuts. In general terms, $800,000 equates to approximately 16 staff positions. Major staff cuts would significantly impact our ability to provide the level of education we have throughout the past years,” said Crebase.
The election was held on Tuesday, Sept. 15, in the Draper Auditorium. Fourteen hundred and twenty votes were cast, which represents a 34% turnout. At the time of the election, there were 4,165 registered voters.
Of the ballots cast, 639 were yes, 781 were no.
Early voting and absentee ballots were counted during polling hours. There were 46 absentee ballots, and 576 early voting ballots, according to the Town Clerk’s Office.