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April 4, 2013

Hamilton Town Meeting agenda includes budget, bylaws

HAMILTON — Town Meeting voters this Saturday will be asked to approve a $25.7 million budget for the coming fiscal year.

That amounts to a 4.25 percent increase over this year’s spending. The school district is slated to receive $15.9 million from Hamilton, which amounts to a 5.5 percent increase.

Annual Town Meeting will take place at Hamilton-Wenham Regional High School. It starts at 9 a.m. and includes 29 articles.

“It is mostly fundraising and budgetary articles,” Selectman David Neill said. “It is not necessarily that we will be spending more; many of the articles are revolving funds transfers.”

The warrant also includes several bylaw changes, including the dog bylaw and senior housing bylaw. Neill said the dog bylaw changes, all of them minor, make the town’s rule compliant with state laws.

Article 2-19 asks residents to approve a debt exclusion override of Proposition 21/2 to pay for designing, construction, equipping and furnishing the new regional vocational school being built in Danvers. But town officials say the vote is not needed and the debt exclusion will be brought directly to voters at Town Election on Thursday, April 11.

The bond is expected to cost $30 million for all member communities, with Hamilton responsible for a portion based on how many students attend, according to Town Manager Michael Lombardo.

Under state law, communities cannot raise property taxes more than 2.5 percent in a given year under Proposition 21/2. But with a debt exclusion, a town can temporarily raise property taxes above that threshold to pay for specific projects.

Once the projects are paid, the additional tax burden goes away.

Neill said the override will prevent the town’s annual operating budget from being affected by taking on the additional debt.

“Large building projects are usually put on debt exclusion,” he said.

What if the override fails?

“Then it will be paid for within the levy,” Lombardo said. “We opted in (to the regional vocational district), so we’re a member. We are obligated to pay.”

Staff writer Jonathan Phelps can be reached at 978-338-2527 or by email at jphelps@salemnews.com. Follow him on Twitter at JPhelps_SN.

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