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May 9, 2014

Ipswich Town Meeting to wrestle with override

IPSWICH — The town’s new schools superintendent, Bill Hart, believes he’s got his ducks in a row.

He’ll be asking Town Meeting on Tuesday to move forward on a Proposition 21/2 override of $2.75 million to fund the schools. And he’ll be doing it with the unanimous support of the School Committee, the selectmen and the Finance Committee, three boards he says have carefully vetted his request.

But critics are quick to point out that if Town Meeting passes the measure, it will face an additional hurdle: winning the votes of Ipswich citizens in a general election a few weeks later.

In his year on the job, Hart said, “I’ve developed a clear vision for Ipswich to be a model system ... a world-class system.” The additional funds the override would provide would be a big step in that direction, he said, allowing for more teachers, advanced placement classes, writing courses, art classes, counselors and librarians.

All this would be part of a five-year plan, including a “stability fund” to forestall any need for overrides in the coming years.

Additionally, the override money would fill a large gap in funding that predates his arrival last year.

“We need in excess of $1 million to avoid significant cuts,” he said. “If the override doesn’t pass, there are a number of positions that will end up being cut.”

Despite the financial problems, Hart is optimistic about the future of the school system. “My students are excellent. This is the best staff I’ve ever worked with,” he said. “... From my point of view the potential is limitless in Ipswich.”

Resident Bill Graham spells out the obstacle in the superintendent’s path: convincing retirees and those on fixed incomes to sign onto a program that will raise their taxes as much as $500 per year. He approves of citizens’ Articles 32 and 33 on the warrant, which call for an outside audit of the schools and mandate such an audit before an override could be passed.

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