Marblehead votes to put override on June ballot

Marblehead’s Town Administrator Thatcher Kezer speaks on article 31 during the 2023 Annual Town Meeting. Photo by Libby O'Neill

The second night of the annual Town Meeting kicked off with residents voting to send the proposed $2.5 million override to the town election ballot in June. 

After months of preparation, Article 31 was finally put up for discussion Tuesday, after the town budget was passed Monday night. The motion to put the override on the ballot passed, with 534 residents voting in favor and 230 voting against. 

With the town failing to increase revenue at a high rate, Marblehead has been operating at a structural deficit. The override, if passed in June, would increase the tax base in order to plug the deficit so the town can operate in full. 

Because of the deficit, the town proposed a balanced budget that would cut multiple jobs and services, including 33 school positions, if the override does not pass. 

Town Administrator Thatcher Kezer provided an overview of the article and the need for an override. 

“The basic issue that’s been discussed is that town revenues under Prop 2 ½ do not grow to keep up with the increase in costs in providing municipal services,” Kezer said. 

He also said that the override would increase taxes for single family homes by 31 cents per $1,000 of the home’s value, with an average tax increase of $322.10 and a median increase of $252.38. 

School Committee Chair Sarah Fox spoke after Kezer and emphasized the implications of cutting school positions.

“All of these cuts will have a profound negative impact on the appropriate educational services to our Marblehead students,” Fox said. 

Conversation on the override continued before a motion to have a written vote was made. Town Meeting continued while votes were being counted, and the results were announced a few articles later.

Another highly-anticipated article, Article 39, was passed with a 500 to 130 vote. With its passage, Article 39 allows for the building of accessory dwelling units (ADUs) on residential property. ADUs are self-contained apartments or small residential units either attached to a single-family home, or separate from the home. The goal of the article is to create more affordable housing in Marblehead while providing another source of income for property owners.

The gas-powered leaf blower ban will remain in effect after Article 47 failed to pass. In addition, Article 48, which involves enforcement of the ban by police, was passed — allowing law enforcement to fine those who violate the ban.

Among the other articles that passed were Article 35, which requires a physical examination of new hires for specific positions, and Article 36, which amends the town’s bylaws to allow for the use of electronic counting devices in future Town Meetings. The town also voted to change Select Board terms from one year to three. Additionally, enhancements to the Comprehensive Annual Financial Review (CAFR) were passed under Article 45.

Town Moderator Jack Attridge was honored with a citation from the Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives for moderating his first Town Meeting. State Rep. Jenny Armini (D-Marblehead) presented the citation and said a few words before the start of the meeting.

“It’s wonderful to see everyone here this evening, and congratulations especially to those who submitted citizen articles,” Armini said. “Having just gone through the House budget process for my own amendments, I feel a deep, deep respect for what you are trying to do.”