Town Meeting approves school budgets with no additional reductions

The Southborough schools enjoyed strong support at Town Meeting on Monday night as voters rejected two attempts to decrease the requested $16.8M budget.

Both the Board of Selectman’s motion to decrease the requested K-8 budget by $570K and the Advisory Committee’s motion to decrease it by $146K failed. Voters then went on to approve the budget recommended by the school committee.

Southborough’s share of the proposed $17.6M Algonquin budget also passed despite a motion by Selectman Bill Boland to decreased it.

Town Meeting wrapped up at 11:30 pm after making its way through the first ten articles, and will continue on Tuesday starting at 7:30 pm with controversial votes still to come, including the question of whether to reimburse legal fees for town employees involved in the Southborough Eight investigation.

I’ll have a more detailed wrap-up of Town Meeting day 1 on the blog on Tuesday, but for now I’m going to bed.

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Youarewelcome
11 years ago

First off, thank you Mr. Hamilton for your best efforts.
I’ve always jokingly said that I am just waiting for the thank you notes to pour in from all the kids in town. This time I’m not joking. This all passed and it’s well and good. But I do expect all parents present at Town meeting (and those who were not ) to get their kids out in the community to provide some type of service to show their appreciation for (almost) year after year of support to obtain their bright futures. Do something. Clean some thing. Help someone you normally wouldn’t. Do something for which you don’t get school credit, a blurb on your resume or a gold star. Make us not wonder why our taxes are reaching for the moon and our kids aren’t.

carrie alpert
11 years ago
Reply to  Youarewelcome

youarewelcome,
i really am sorry that you are not seeing what the kids do, i say this with not one ounce of sarcasm. Just at Neary a group of kids, without any outside influence started collecting money for relief efforts in Japan and it just took off throughout the school–they raised well over $1200. At the Woodward school right now is a drive called “Pennies for Patients” whereby the kids collect change and bring it in and there in an enormous chart keeping track of how much the entire school is raising and this was after they sponsored penguins at the Aquarium and neither one is tied into earning anything.
and time and time again the kids are told that it is the schools that keep the Food Pantry sustained.
i see my children and the my friends children excited about learning and having relationships with their teachers and reaching to go to to school which to me is the moon.
i really do hope that you can see the forest for the trees or the trees for the forest.

southborough mom
11 years ago
Reply to  Youarewelcome

You are Welcome,
How riduculous to ask children to thank us. We brought them into the world and have a responsibility to educate them.
The children are the future, they will run the country and maintain the wealth that will support our great country. If we give up on them we break the tradition of generations making the country unique in it’s prosperity and a better future for each generation. Life gets more complicated. Let’s face it our kids will have to work hard to solve former generations’ mistakes, as all generations have had to do. Let’s give them the tools necessary. Our only goal can’t be to coddle those who are no longer forward thinking. Maybe we should beg our children’s pardon as they forge ahead with their youthful energy to make a better world

John Rooney
11 years ago

On behalf of the BOS, I would like to thank all who turned out last night to TM. The resounding support for the school budget was clearly heard by those in attendance, and that is exactly the way our system is supposed to work. I am sure the schools and the school committee are thankful for the outpouring of support last night.

Like the minority report diligently crafted by Mr. Butler and explained by Mr. Hamilton, these are important matters that require community involvement. These decisions cannot be left to a few; broad participation is essential.

While the school budget recommendations of the BOS and Advisory were soundly defeated, those budgets were penned with both current and future considerations. It is important, when the fervor of TM has passed, to sit back and reflect about the issues discussed by both sides, as they will be at the forefront of discussion in the immediate future.

Right now, the schools consume nearly 70 cents of every dollar of tax payer money. In the past 5 years, the K-8 school budget has grown by 2.5 million dollars while at the same time enrollment has decreased. By funding the schools at the level we do, our class sizes remain small in comparison to other towns, and we give healthy annual raises to our teachers.

At the same time, our property tax rate increases, people living on fixed streams of income struggle, we use one-time money for operational budgets, and our FY12 police, fire, and DPW department budgets are at lower levels than prior years.

The syllogistic argument that “the schools are working properly because the schools say they are working properly” does not necessarily instill fiscal confidence. Town meeting was vocal in its willingness to make this existential leap, and the politically popular thing would be to simply acquiesce. I have never been motivated by political expediency; rather, I make decisions based upon what I believe to be in the best long-term interests of all the residents of town.

Fiscal responsibility requires the school committee to be a more vigilant steward of the taxpayers’ money . The town has been consistently patient with this elected body and the annually increasing school budget, but Sisyphus it is not. This year TM agreed with their recommendation. In future years they may not, so efforts to reduce expenses must continue.

Finally, to the intimation that I may be personally motivated in my recommendation based upon the fact that my children have already gone through the K-8 system, I can assure you that if personal motivation was an objective, I would not endure this job as selectman. My motivation was and is to bring complete transparency to the operation of town government and try to make decisions that benefit all residents. Personal motivation would be to acknowledge a correlation between property values and quality education and infuse the schools with as much money as possible. In so doing, I would need to close my eyes to those in town that do not have a large overlay reserve – something which I refuse to do.

Frank Crowell
11 years ago
Reply to  John Rooney

Mr. Rooney, Thank you for your hard work in particular bringing in additional money from Fay School and St Marks. You have done what others did not or would not do.

m
11 years ago

Mr. Rooney, you should not have been personally attacked because your children have completed those school years. This is where TM gets ugly. The anger that erupts in parents who only want the best for their children is understandable, but that kind of attack happens every year and prevents the more thoughtful analysis of budget options. You obviously work very hard on behalf of all the citizens in Southborough, even if you have a personal view.

I criticized your original content in the PILOT report last month. I now applaud you on your ability to obtain cruisers from the two private schools. It seems clear that the schools are more comfortable in donating specific Capital outlay to the town instead of committing to a permanent increase in their payment in lieu of taxes. Perhaps this should be our approach going forward. Well done Mr. Rooney. Thank you.

Anna
11 years ago

I am truly bewildered and saddened that there is so much acrimony over the attempt to maintain class sizes and other attributes of a successful school system. I urge those with strong feelings about this to involve themselves more fully in what is going on in our Southborough schools before they attack those who would like to maintain their operation similar to what has been provided in the past. Work proactively to suggest areas of suggested (supposed?) waste. Selectman and Advisory- take a well-deserved break if you can but seriously get into those schools well before next year. I am so surprised and disappointed at your position relative to the school committee. These issues are not going away easily with our small tax base.

Everyone who has been educated in public schools has been the beneficiary of collective tax dollars spent of their behalf. It is so easy to forget this concept. The children do not mean to be so much trouble to you now! They only get this one chance to be young and to learn. These kids are going to need a solid education to pay for our Social Security, Medicare, and national debt! If the incremental dollar amounts we are talking about are that big of an issue for an individual are too much, nothing short of dismantling the school system would be enough to rescue the personal budgets involved. My folks wanted to pay lower taxes when they retired so they moved to Florida. If you can’t pay your bills, some people do have to make those choices. There are some people on fixed incomes that may have more disposable cash than me with my mortgage and college obligations. I hope for the day when I can retire but I will certainly assume that my tax obligations are part of that equation as they always have been.

In the meantime, I suggest people reflect on the value that the schools have offered our home values. If you want to compare town schools, it may make sense to as well look at a comparable house in Medway or your favorite school comparison town to your own and see how much it is worth. I would argue that this would be a much bigger hit to an someone’s financial status if our homes decreased in value to approach theirs. So many people chose to live here either because of the schools, or chose not to live in Marlborough or Framingham for the same reasons. I only know one family from Medway and they were so unhappy with the schools that they moved to Holliston. I don’t have more specifics for this already lengthy post but some of the stories that they told were troubling. I am amazed that Medway was proposed as a model for Southborough- how disheartening. I don’t think that someone familiar with the day to day operation of the two districts would suggest that. It is very hard to compare as an outsider so be careful what you wish for. We could easily end up with a situation of unexpected consequences.

Due to many outside factors, the Southborough schools have had to make cutbacks over many years time just to lessen the increases in the budget. It is startling to see how quickly we forget about these. Even just last year, the huge cutbacks were not contentious at Town Meeting so they are easy to forget. The lost teachers will probably never be restored yet schools are faulted for not doing it again? Kids haven’t had textbooks in elementary school as long as I can remember. Everything is photocopied sheets. There have been a lot of discussion about class sizes, but as a volunteer, the additional kids per class from cutbacks is noticeably negative. Take a look a a Trottier students schedule and see how prior cutbacks have added so many study halls to student schedules. Art, Tech Ed and FCS are 1/3 year apiece. I could go on! Please don’t fault the kids or Dr. Gobron for trying to hold the schools to a certain level.

Good luck to those involved with the issue of PILOT (Mr. Rooney.) Thank you for your efforts so far!! I would be so happy if residential property used by faculty of the private schools could be taxed. Find some metric to work with but Fay show us the money!!

Also, I am very surprised that the playground got approved for over $100,000 last night. I noticed that the parents in attendance near me did not even vote for that! They said it was not a priority relative to the town’s other needs! I just don’t get it in the context of the discussions from the night before.

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