Selectmen Question School Budget Increase
Voters will decide the budget at the March 16 annual town meeting.
Westborough selectmen are questioning why the proposed school budget increase exceeds the 2 percent target the board set for the town departments.
Selectmen said this past week they don’t understand the schools’ proposal well enough to recommend a direction to the March 16 annual town meeting.
The school committee voted on Dec. 19 to seek $42,694,208 for the fiscal year starting July 1.
The 3.07 percent budget increase is less than the 3.67 percent initially recommended by Superintendent Marianne O’Connor.
However, Town Manager Jim Malloy said the schools’ figure also is about $411,000 higher than the figure he “initially recommended to them to try to come within”: a $1 million increase.
“My thought on that was the board’s direction to me was to keep the budget within 2 percent of last year’s levy, not including any new growth,” he said.
Selectman Denny Drewry said that “through the town manager, we tried to set an increase. I think that increase should go across the board.”
““I think we have a good school system. I think it can survive with just a 2 percent increase”
Selectmen Chairman Leigh Emery said selectmen have received “portions of the school budget, in sort of segmented fashion,” such as the Westborough High School budget.
She asked if selectmen “feel that that’s sufficient information to form an opinion about the budget.”
“I would like to understand what the overwhelming necessity is for the extra $400,000,” Emery said.
Selectman George Barrette said the school committee had public budget discussions, and that copies of the budget are available.
Barrette suggested selectmen make no recommendation until they hear the school budget presentation on town meeting floor.
“The five of us can’t hash it out with the five of them,” he said.
“They’re in front of fincom. Attend the fincom meetings, or watch them. I’m not comfortable voting on the biggest chunk of the town, by far.”
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