Voters approve Countryside and Franklin overrides but reject $9.2 million operating override

Newton residents approved two tax increases for major construction at elementary schools on Tuesday, but rejected a $9.2 million increase for the overall city budget — $4.5 million of which was promised to schools — according to unofficial results from the city’s Election Commission.

Question one, which asked voters to approve an additional $9.175 million in property tax increases for an operating budget override, failed by a margin of 9,428 to 10,566 . Voters approved the second question, which called for a $2.3 million tax increase to renovate or replace the Countryside School, by a margin of 10,430 to 9,453. And they also approved the third question, a $3.5 million tax increase to renovate or replace the Franklin School, by a margin of 10,461 to 9,457.

About 34 percent of Newton’s 58,676 registered voters* showed up on a wet and windy Tuesday to cast their ballots. Ultimately, turnout for the 2023 override vote was greater than the last override vote in 2013, where a $8.4 million operating override proposed by then-Mayor Setti Warren passed by a margin of 9,653 to 8,203, with two school construction measures passing by similar margins.

Mayor Ruthanne Fuller proposed the overrides last October and advocated for their passage with the support of several city councilors and most of the School Committee. But other councilors did not support the overrides, and the Charles River Chamber of Commerce opposed the operating override while supporting the overrides for the Countryside and Franklin schools.

Two ballot question groups ran campaigns supporting and opposing the override as well, with Vote Yes For Newton raising more than $40,000 to back the overrides. The No Override Newton has not disclosed how much money it has raised or spent during its campaign, likely in violation of state law.

The median single-family property owner in Newton has an assessed home value of $1.2 million and would have seen an increase of $290 in next year’s tax bill because of the operating override tax increase, according to city officials. That won’t happen, but that same property owner will see an additional increase of $183 in their yearly bill because of the other two tax increases by 2030.

Those increases will come as officials sell bonds to fund the Franklin and Countryside projects – that process takes longer, taking until 2030 to fully affect residents’ tax bills. Once the school projects are completely paid off, which will take 20 to 30 years, that increase will disappear from residents’ tax bills.

What will — and won’t — be paid for

The Countryside override will likely pay for construction of a new school. The Massachusetts School Building Authority is expected to pay for about 30 percent of that construction, and officials warned the MSBA would likely not chip in if the override is not approved.

The Franklin override would pay for major renovations or a new school, but the school’s building committee has not yet determined a design. There is no state money for the Franklin project, which is why the tax increase of $3.5 million is higher than the Countryside’s increase of $2.3 million.

But the Fuller administration placed proposed funds for a major addition to the Horace Mann School — $775,000 for two decades — in the operating override, which voters rejected. That override also would have given $4.5 million to the school budget, as school officials say they’re facing a $6 million shortfall in the budget this year.

Also included in the operating override: $500,000 on climate resilience work and $500,000 on tree planting and maintenance; $500,000 for senior services; $1 million for parks, fields and playground improvements; and $1.4 million on maintaining road paving and street safety work schedules.

*This number has been corrected