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LYNNFIELD — The town took another step closer toward approval of a $17 million elementary schools’ expansion project Saturday.
Residents turned out in droves for a Special Town Meeting at Lynnfield High, overwhelmingly approving the proposal by a vote of 386-17, well above the two-thirds supermajority threshold needed for the only article on the warrant.
A special election will be held Dec. 8 to determine the final fate of the project with voters being asked to approve a debt exclusion.
“I am so proud of Lynnfield right now. I am so happy that they prioritized families and their children and their children’s education,” said Kate DePrizio, president of Together We Grow, an organization formed by expansion supporters.
The project calls for the addition of 10 classrooms to the town’s two elementary schools to accommodate what is projected to be an unprecedented spike in the town’s elementary school enrollment by the year 2024-2025.
The project also calls for other improvements, including additional parking and improved traffic flow; upgrades to athletic fields; a new playground area at Summer Street School, and a full-size gymnasium at Huckleberry Hill School.
Real estate taxes are expected to increase approximately $205 per year on average over a 20-year period to pay for the project.
Select Board Chairman Chris Barrett said the article has the unanimous support of the School Committee, Planning Board, Finance Committee and Select Board.
“These are needs, not wants,” he said. “The cost will never be less expensive than it is today. This plan is absolutely needed.
“Lynnfield citizens of all ages have supported public education as the foundation of our community’s important values. Today is our generation’s turn to follow that proud tradition and make this happen. We ask that you vote yes.”
Ellen Crawford, a realtor on the Marjorie Youngren team at William Raveis and wife of Select Board member Phil Crawford, also urged attendees to vote yes.
“Lynnfield is one of the top-ranked schools in the Commonwealth. That is an accomplishment we can all be proud of. Lynnfield continues to be the place to live,” she said. “We raised four children through the public schools. We now have three generations living in the town. Please join me in voting yes.”
School Committee member Tim Doyle spoke on behalf of the School Building Committee.
“I am extremely confident in today’s proposal, it is fiscally responsible, and more importantly, it solves a problem,” he said, adding that the additional tax burden amounts to $17 a month or 57 cents a day.
“Our schools are bursting at the seams and we have had three years of careful, reflective and thoughtful analysis,” Doyle said. “This is a modest investment to provide continued delivery of excellence in education. This is our moral obligation to our children.”
David Kulakowski said, as a senior citizen, he has limited income. He questioned whether or not the town had considered using the Senior Center as an alternative and why there is no state or federal funding.
“Where’s Brad Jones?” he asked. “What about looking for partners and has anyone looked into partnering with Our Lady of Assumption if they have extra space? Playground equipment and new fields should be cut. It seems like we are buying a Cadillac when we should be buying a Chevy.”
Town administrator Rob Dolan explained that the wait for state funding would be five to seven years and that, as recently as two weeks ago, the town was told by the state School Building Authority it doesn’t qualify for funding.
“We don’t qualify right now and we don’t have five to seven years,” he said. “Every issue brought before our building committee was based on costs and we will continue to look at costs,” adding that residents facing hardship should come to the town for help.
Jack Adelson spoke in favor of the proposal, saying “the increase in (property) values will far exceed any additional taxes we pay.”
DePrizio, who has four children, the oldest a second grader, said Together We Grow has only just begun.
“We’re not done yet,” she said. “This is just step one and we are still going to keep up the effort. All Lynnfield children will benefit from this. We are proud that Lynnfield really spoke loudly today with a resounding yes.”
“I thought the merits of the proposal were strong and it speaks incredibly well about the dedication of the people in this community, to participate and to support children and I hope they do it again on the 8th,” Dolan said after the meeting.