Westborough school officials should discuss with selectmen building sidewalks on the roads near the schools without them, school committee Vice Chairman Stephen Doret says.
Doret’s suggestion came during the school committee’s budget public hearing Wednesday night.
The board voted to present a budget request, a 3.07 percent increase, to voters at the March 16 annual town meeting.
The figure does not include a school transportation fee. The board had discussed charging $200 per child, with a $500 family cap, to students in grades seven to 12, and to students in Kindergarten to grade six living within two miles of their school. The fee would raise a projected $240,000 if voters don’t support the budget request. Cuts would be the alternative, school officials say.
Doret said that “it behooves the town to put sidewalks in where they are needed, so that if and when we face this” situation, “if not this year, a future year, we need to have those sidewalks.”
Chairman Ilyse Levine-Kanji said she won’t support bus fees unless voters reject the budget request.
“I do believe that not having bus fees benefits the entire town. Because if we do impose bus fees, there are going to be some parents who don’t pay, and our schools are not cut out for extra drop off and pickup.,” she said.
“There’s going to be increased traffic in town. The town will potentially have to build sidewalks to get people to Mill Pond safely, or down Ruggles (Street) safely. We don’t want students walking on busy roads.”
The board heard from parents on both sides of the issue during Wednesday night’s public hearing.
Chauncy Street resident Janet Anderson said that “I personally as a parent would be willing to pay a bus fee if that’s what it comes down to to keep the schools” at “the standard that they are.”
“It’s a small price to pay. I think it would probably come back to me when I sell my house, in property values,” she said.
Blake Street resident Paula Less said that at the last annual town meeting, she asked to decrease school budget and have bus fee.
“I live right across from the high school. So, I’m very well aware of the amount of cars going in and out of that high school every single day. There is one parent and one child,” Less said.
“Any parent who wants to drive their child to school today is going to drive them to school tomorrow whether they have to pay $200 or not. Because they’re taking the time, or they want to have that connection with their child, to get to school.”