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By Ethan Lee
Hometown Weekly Correspondent
Needham Town Meeting members convened on Wednesday, October 5, for a Special Town Meeting at the Town Hall. Over one hundred members gathered and discussed several different issues, including new changes on the town budget, wage plans for Needham firefighters, and information on construction at Hillside Elementary School.
In a unanimous vote, the town agreed on an increase in Needham firefighter base wages. Firefighters will be receiving higher base wages, as well as other benefits, for the fiscal years 2017, 2018, and 2019.
The town also approved the transfer of around $57,500,000 to be used in the expansion of Hillside Elementary School. Hillside, which is currently accommodating an excess of students (470 despite a 261 student capacity), has recently become a cause of concern due to its lack of handicapped accessibility and adequate parking. The new building is to be twice the size of the current school, although its energy efficiency will remain the same.
The budget used to renovate Hillside will be made up of money from the town and an MSBA (Massachusetts School Building Authority) grant. The MSBA will be funding up to 14 million dollars of the amount necessary for the Hillside construction, while the remaining total will be funded by the town’s own budget. The expected impact on single-family homes in Needham is an increase of $375 in annual tax bills.
The town also upheld the building of new outside play areas for Hillside, which is to be funded by the town. Interestingly, the field to be constructed will be on property owned by the Town of Wellesley, who have granted a renewable 10-year license to the land to the Town of Needham. The estimated cost of the project is $250,000.
For more information on the October 2016 Needham Town Meeting, visit www.needhamma.gov.