NORTH READING — The voters have spoken again. This time, by a margin of 2,438 to 1,807, the town’s voters rejected a $10,000,000 override of Proposition 2 ½ to put toward the operating budgets for both town and public school services in Fiscal Years 2025, 2026 and 2027.

The results of the Special Election—held in-person on Tuesday, June 18 and combined with six days of in-person early voting plus mail-in ballots—effectively nullified the vote at Town Meeting where the override budget had passed 555-181 on June 10.

Overriding the 1980 state law that limits annual property tax increases to 2½ percent was designed to be a two-step process. For communities with an open Town Meeting such as North Reading, the authority to place an override question on the ballot rests with the Select Board as the “local appropriating body,” not a Town Meeting vote or other local initiative procedure, according to MassDOR. The approval of a levy limit override to increase the amount of property tax revenue the town could raise above 2½ percent requires approval by simple majority vote at both Town Meeting and the ballot box.

The only override for general operating expenses approved by North Reading voters occurred in 2005 in the amount of $1,244,773. Override attempts in 1991, 1996, 2008 and 2009 all failed.

The question put before the voters was: “Question #1: Shall the Town of North Reading be allowed to assess an additional $10,000,000 in real estate and personal property taxes for the purposes of funding the operating budgets of the Town and the Public Schools for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2024?”

Since Town Meeting must approve the budget annually any appropriations from the requested $10M override would have been subject to the appropriation by the voters at subsequent Town Meetings in 2025 for FY26 and in 2026 for FY27. The town’s financial leadership had identified how it intended to spread out the $10M over those three fiscal years in multiple presentations and on the budget central page of the town website.

Question #1 drew 4,249 of the town’s 12,528 eligible voters to the polls. The results by precinct were as follows: Precinct 1: 493 yes and 556 no; Precinct 2: 273 yes and 758 no (with one blank cast); Precinct 3: 503 yes and 554 no (with one blank cast); and Precinct 4: 538 yes and 570 no (with two blanks cast).




Proposition 2 ½ Override Vote on June 18, 2024
(Unofficial results per Town Clerk Susan Duplin)


The FY25 operating budget presented to the voters under Article 16 of the June Annual Town Meeting anticipated the potential failure of the override budget proposal. Therefore, in order to not be left without an operating budget when FY25 begins on July 1, 2024, Article 16 was presented to the voters in two parts.

In part one, the voters approved, on a voice vote, a budget of $90,627,932 to be raised and appropriated within the limitations of Proposition 2 ½ as follows: General Government – $35,657,822; Education – $39,871,531; Debt Service – $7,260,470; and Enterprises – $7,838,109.

However, it was explained that since it costs more that a 2 ½ percent increase in available funds to maintain the same level of services (due to factors such as increases in fixed costs and more students entering the school system), then cuts must be made to current programs without an approval of the proposed Proposition 2 ½ Override budget.

Part two of Article 16 was the Proposition 2 ½ override budget, which was also approved at the June 10 Town Meeting, but by secret ballot, 555-181. This vote authorized the June 18 Special Election override vote to proceed, as was recommended by the Select Board, Finance Committee and School Committee.

Had the $10M override vote passed, the town planned to use $2,085,227 of those funds in FY25 to supplement the following budgets: $1,436,318 for education, $595,109 for general government and $53,800 for enterprises.

The first year of cuts will be more deeply felt in the schools. Budget cuts to municipal services will be felt more sharply in both FY26, when it is projected that the town will have a budget deficit of 8.54% ($1.8M) and again in FY27 when that deficit reaches 11.56% ($2.5M).

An in-depth overview of the budget cuts to be made to adhere to the limits of the FY25 operating budget as well as projected scenarios in FY26 and FY27 may be found by visiting: