By John Anderson
At last Wednesday night’s meeting, the School Committee tried to come up with a final budget number for Tuesday’s Annual Town Meeting, but it ended in a 2-2 tie. Normally, Chairman George Scobie only needs to vote to break a tie, but with member Jess Harrington away, there were only 4 at the table.
The final amount the committee wanted to accept reflected an increase of 2.21%, but the town administration asked for 1.55%, a difference of about $155,000.
Town Manager Julie Jacobson said there are no funds to pay the $155,000 difference without raising taxes or cutting from the government side of the budget which only saw a 1.41% increase for FY2016. Taxes are already predicted to go up 2% of the allowable 2.5% required by Prop 2-1/2. If the town went up the full 2.5%, only $188,000 would be generated, and most of that would obviously go to the schools.
Scobie said, “The last thing I want to do is to steal from another department.” No member of the board advocated for increasing taxes either. Gail Holloway suggested they accept the 1.55% increase and hope for restoring funds at the fall town meeting, but Wayne Page and Dorothy Sutton dug in their heels about keeping their FY16 budget with the 2.21% increase. Both are legitimately advocating for the children.
The committee will meet again tonight and try to get to a resolution. Even at the 1.55% level, the district is set to have a net gain of 3.6 full-time equivalent employees. There were no new employees added on the municipal side this year despite numerous requests.
New Business Manager Cecilia Wirzbicki was introduced to the committee as well last week. She will replace Howard Barber who has resigned effective June 30th to take a similar position with the Greenfield Public Schools.
Mrs. Wirzbicki lives with her husband in Gardner, Massachusetts, and she is currently serving as the Business Manager for Shrewsbury Public Schools. She was recommended for the position by a search committee.