The Essex Westford School District and village of Essex Jct. have earned voter approval on their spending plans for fiscal year 2020.
The district’s FY20 budget of $81.4 million, which represents an education spending increase of about 1.88 percent, passed overwhelmingly in EWSD’s three communities. Here’s the vote breakdown by town, according to unofficial results:
- Essex Town: 273 yes to 77 no
- Essex Jct.: 350 yes to 94 no
- Westford: 96 yes to 44 no
Based on common level of appraisal (CLA) numbers, Essex Town and Jct. residents will see about a half cent increase and Westford will see a cent and a half increase. On a $300,000 home, that equates to about a $10 increase in the town and village, and a $47 increase in Westford.
The three communities also easily approved separate articles that authorized a $365,000 transfer into the capital reserve fund and a $8.1 million budget for the Center for Technology, Essex. The CTE budget will raise the center’s tuition by .89 percent to $17,000.
EWSD’s approved budget includes the use of $3.8 million from the district’s $4.2 million carryover fund, which includes unused funds from fiscal years 17 and 18. The remainder will be assigned to the capital reserve fund for a long-term facilities study to look at the merged district’s over one million square feet of building space and highlight any necessary improvements.
The budget also provides $635,000 in one-time funds to continue on the promise of merger and social and emotional learning in a two-part plan that includes the hiring of five additional board certified behavioral analysts (BCBAs) and a new co-principal for Essex Elementary and Founders Memorial School, who will work with current building principals.
Administrators said if the district decides to continue funding the positions, it will need to find cost savings in the next budget cycle.
In school board elections, Todd Odit won the village’s open seat, taking 324 votes to beat Joanne Jewell, who finished with 93. Incumbents Kim Gleason and Al Bombardier, running unopposed for two seats in the town-outside-the-village, earned 287 votes and 248 votes, respectively.
Village elections, meanwhile, saw Raj Chawla handily win election to fill Rep. Lori Houghton’s seat, earning 303 votes to Amber Thibeault’s 118.
Jeanne Grant, Helen Soule Donahey and Beth Custer were also elected to seats on the Brownell Library board of trustees, and Steven Eustis was re-elected as moderator.
Tuesday’s vote comes six days after 116 village residents approved the village’s municipal budget of $5.1 million by a unanimous voice vote at annual meeting. The spending plan represents a 4.24 percent increase over the current year and will bump the municipal tax rate by an even 3 percent, raising village taxes on a $280,000 property by $26.
Among the biggest increases were a $47,000 hike in contributions to the capital fund, $21,000 in salary increases, $48,000 in employee benefits, $17,000 in fire salaries to align with the town department and $19,000 for custodial services for the Essex Jct. Recreation and Parks department.
The budget also includes an expected $7,000 in revenue from EJRP’s non-resident fees, which the trustees initially ditched at the request of EJRP director Brad Luck but later reinstated following a packed meeting in which village residents advocated to keep the system as-is.
The village budget also features a $50,000 transfer from the town – representing about half the unified clerk’s salary and benefits – which dropped the village’s tax rate increase to the easier-to-stomach percentage of 3 percent.
Voters spent little time debating at the April 3 meeting. They passed the budget in under 40 minutes – a timeframe that included a PowerPoint presentation and two songs from Essex High School’s select choir.
The 945 ballots cast on Tuesday across EWSD’s three communities represent a 5.34 percent turnout.