SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

June 4, 2008

Beverly override crushed: Tax limits upheld, but McKeown School will close at month's end

BEVERLY — Voters overwhelmingly rejected a $2.5 million tax increase in the city's first Proposition 21/2 override election yesterday, staging what the leader of the winning side said amounted to a "taxpayer revolt."

Voters turned down the override by a margin of more than 2,800 votes, 6,686 to 3,846. The "no" voters swept all 12 precincts in the city.

When the final results were tallied on a board at City Hall, a group of about a dozen "vote no" supporters exploded in applause.

"This is great," said Dawn Hames, a member of the anti-override group Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility. "As the children would say, 'Awesome.'"

Elliott Margolis, the leader of Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility, said the large margin of victory "sent a message" to school and city officials about rising taxes and spending.

"It sends the message that they've had enough," Margolis said. "It's like a taxpayer revolt."

The result means the city will close McKeown School at the end of this month and spread the city's elementary school students among the five remaining schools for next year. There will also be teacher layoffs.

A citizens group called Yes! for Beverly had tried to persuade voters to pass the override in order to keep the school system as it is for at least another year and buy time to come up with other solutions to the school's budget problems.

More than 200 override supporters gathered last night at the Cove Community Center, which turned from festive to frustrated as the results came in. Although disappointed, they said they remained positive and proud of the work that went into the campaign.

"I know it doesn't feel like it right now, but we did make a difference," said Tracey Armstrong, one of the group's leaders. "We won before the votes were counted. This kind of a ballot never happened here before, and we gave people a voice, a chance to vote."

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