Newton Mayor Ruthanne Fuller detailed how the newly announced proposal for a $15 million tax increase would benefit Newton Public Schools (NPS) at a virtual town hall meeting Thursday night.
Funds resulting from the increase—which would require a majority vote among Newton residents to override Proposition 2 ½, a Massachusetts law that places a 2.5 percent cap on annual increases in levy limits—will primarily go toward funding several city projects, with particular emphasis on improving the Newton Public Schools (NPS), according to Fuller.
“I’d say Newtonians have every right to have high expectations for our city,” Fuller said. “And I know how much work we have in front of us to be the community of choice, especially for parents and families coming here to take advantage of our wonderful school district.”
The proposal, as detailed by Fuller, will include two debt-exclusion overrides totaling $5.8 million that will go toward the renovations of Countryside Elementary School and Franklin Elementary School, entailing a temporary tax increase in about seven years that will last 30 years. The proposal also includes an operating override—a permanent tax increase that, if passed, will start on July 1, 2023.
“[Countryside is] way overdue to be completely renovated, and over at Franklin we have a 100-year-old building … [where] lots of the student spaces are in the basement,” Fuller said. “Though if our voters vote ‘yes,’ we’ll have two great new buildings here—modern, accessible, all the right spaces with all the right sizes.”
A significant portion of the operating override, which will total roughly $9.2 million, will go toward NPS, with the rest allocated to repairing streets and sidewalks; maintaining parks, fields, courts, and playgrounds; planting and nurturing more trees; improving senior services; and addressing sustainability and climate change.
“Please know that 75 percent of the funds in this override are for our children, which are literally our future,” said Fuller. “It’s the core value here in Newton—we believe in supporting children. We believe in education, and that’s what this override at its heart is all about.”
Should the proposal pass, $4.5 million will be dedicated to supporting general student needs, according to Fuller, while $775,000 will go specifically toward renovating NPS’ Horace Mann Elementary School.
“It’s just too small,” Fuller said. “We need an addition, as we even had to lease some [modular buildings] in the last few years to get the space that we needed. Once we have this addition in place … we get the right-size classrooms, you have the right-size cafetorium, the right-size library, and all the good things with the special education and student services spaces.”
Current Interim Superintendent Kathleen Smith said that the primary goal of using the funds is to maintain NPS’s status as a high-achieving district.
“We are right where we need to be,” Smith said. “The one thing that I think is important for the community to understand is this is where we do not want to lose ground.”