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Two School Budgets Possible at TM

One would be $240,000 lower, an amount potentially coming from school bus fees.

Voters might get two school budget options in March: one including $240,000, the other with that amount potentially coming from school bus fees.

The Westborough School Committee discussed the two-budget idea Wednesday night during its budget discussion.

The debate came after some community members said implementing a transportation fee for students in grades seven through 12, as well as students in Kindergarten to grade six residing within two miles of school.next year would create safety issues. About 12 community members attended the meeting.

“Would town meeting be willing to vote that $240,000 so that we don’t have to have a bus fee?” Chairman Ilyse Levine-Kanji asked.

“And the reason why that benefits the entire town is because there would be less safety issues and less traffic issues.”

The board will vote a budget request Dec. 19, when its 6:30 p.m. budget public hearing is scheduled.

Westborough School Superintendent Marianne O’Connor has recommended reducing her by about $105,000 by not requesting reinstating either a full-time reading specialist at the Mill Pond School or a .5 strings position next fall.

Vice Chairman Stephen Doret said “the real issue before the school committee is ‘How do we continue to deliver a quality education with what money will be made available?”

“How do we raise the money in order to maintain a quality education? The only way that can happen is for us to do our very best in managing the budget,” he said.

“If we bring a budget to town meeting that gets voted down, that means that teachers go out the door.”

Levine-Kanji said the school committee has discussed bus fees last five years.

She said a subcommittee she served on met with police and others “to try and figure out, ‘Did transportation fees make sense?’”  But there were “so many problems with setting up bus fees,” she said.

“The reason why I’m in favor of it now is because I don’t want to make additional cuts. And I think what we’ve looked at the cuts that we would need to make,  it makes much more sense to me to raise fees – but only if the school community buys into paying the bus fee,” Levine-Kanji said.

“We do not want anybody walking on Route 30. We do not want anybody walking on Ruggles Street to get to Fales. The school committee before us prohibited our high school kids from running on Ruggles. We don’t want young kids walking on Ruggles. But what we’re trying to do is to get buy-in from people that they would rather spend a little bit of money to support education.

“I think we all do so many things for our kids: we pay for sports, and music lessons, and dance lessons, and tae kwon do, and video games, and cell phones. Would we be willing to spend $2 per kid to continue the top-notch education that we all see in Westborough?”

Member Nicole Sullivan told the audience members that “we need your support.”

“The people we hear from are the people who complain. The people who think we pay too much. The people who think our taxes are too high. That’s who we hear from,” she said.

“So to have parents sit in those chairs and taxpayers say to us, ‘We don’t want to do a bus fee. We want another option’ that’s what we need to hear. Because we need that support.”

Paul Courchesne December 13, 2012 at 04:42 PM
i was at the meeting (my 1st ever) and was really disappointed the meeting closed without a Q/A session. The past meeting's minutes are not posted and we are not allowed to ask direct questions and get answers? How are we supposed to come up to speed on the facts and options? Per the Bus Fee-- i am opposed on many levels--but i think it is shameful to ask 40-50% of the school families to pay this to support a budget shortfall purely on geographic location. This fee, plus activity fees will mean families will pay $1,000 directly to the schools, on top of of $19.21/1,000 tax rate. Come on? Bring the $ we need to the TM and let's do this right without all the mess this proposed fee will make.
arthur December 14, 2012 at 12:14 AM
This is a disturbing article. It seems the only discussion brought forward to reduce the budget is the bus fee question. It doesn't seem reasonable that this is the only area that has any potential for cuts before 'teachers go out the door'. Creating bus fees may help reduce the school budget but it's also shifting expense to the taxpayer. Parents with school children are facing up to an additional $1000 per family to cover these fees in addition to high real estate taxes. Schools are not reducing or holding budgets flat, they are just shifting the responsibility to others. Nicole Sullivan's statement is particularly offensive. The people who complain because their taxes are too high and they pay too much are entitled to share that opinion and perhaps that should be enough for you to understand we would like another option. The only people I've heard support a bus fee are the people proposing it because other towns have one. Other towns also have athletic fees. Many of those other towns don't have property taxes anywhere near Westborough's. Election season is here, it would be really wonderful to see people step up and start challenging the incumbents on this board who have been rubber stamping budgets. Now is the time to start applying some accountability to the school committee, but please don't try and sound like you are complaining when you do it, they don't appreciate that.

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