Worcester Telegram & Gazette (MA)
May 23, 2007
By ~~~Steven H. Foskett Jr.
SUTTON - Voters approved a $975,000 Proposition 2-1/2 override at the annual election yesterday, and elected the recently retired police chief as the newest selectman.
The override passed by 50 votes, 1,219 to 1,169. It was the product of a compromise that combined the purchase of the Shaw Farm with a relatively small operational override for town and school budgets. Town Hall attracted more than the usual band of election-watchers who wait outside the town clerk's office, and as soon as the results were tallied, most of the 20 or so people there celebrated and hugged. Superintendent Cecilia M. DiBella said the school system has waited a long time for a financial boost, and she believed residents would come out to support the measure.
"This is very good news," Ms. DiBella said.
Around $475,000 of the override will go toward initial borrowing toward the purchase of the Shaw Farm, a 130-acre parcel coming out of Chapter 61 protection. The annual town meeting voted last week to authorize selectmen to exercise the right of first refusal on the farm. The town will effectively match a $4.5 million offer on the land, which town officials have eyed as a future site for municipal uses. As debt is paid down on the land, the remaining funding will go toward a dedicated capital projects account.
The remaining $500,000 will be split between school and municipal operating budgets. The override will add around 73 cents to the tax rate, and about $268 to the annual tax bill of a homeowner living in a house with an assessed value of around $365,000. A continuation of the annual town meeting will vote on the fiscal 2008 budget next month.
A February special town meeting defeated a plan to purchase the farm on its own; in the following months, town officials worked out a plan to combine the purchase of the land with additional funding for the municipal and school budgets. Last night, Kevin Geraghty, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, said the override will enable the town to address long-term needs with the purchase of the land, and will enable the town the shore up chronic budget deficits in the near term.