Shrewsbury residents urge selectmen to consider override
By K.B. Sherman, Contributing Writer
Maurice DePalo, the chair of the Board of Selectmen, started the meeting by restating that the town does not have enough money to fulfill all the expenditures in the School Committee’s requested budget for fiscal year (FY) 2014. Twenty people then stood in succession to address the board and the assembled voters, most urging the selectmen to put a Proposition 2-½ override vote on the warrant for the 2014 spring Town Meeting. Few comments were heard advising against such an override vote.
The override proponents were principally concerned about what they perceive as an inadequate school budget for FY 2014. Specifically, they repeated the claim that a class size of 30 students was unworkable, failed to teach students, and was resulting in students not coming to class. Ancillary to that concern was the alleged cancellation of many well-received electives, from band to art to auto repair shop. The speakers reiterated these points, adding that the loss of what they had seen as good schools canceled a primary reason they had moved to Shrewsbury while raising a family. They also claimed that fire and police protection had been compromised by budget shortfalls, endangering their safety. Several speakers alluded to what they saw as an ancillary problem begot by larger class sizes: that violent and other disruptive students had to be blended into regular classes, making learning impossible and resulting in some students being afraid to go to school in such “dangerous circumstances.”
Lauren Mitsis, 46 Wachusett Drive, standing with her mother and grandmother, pled with the selectmen to save the town they loved and in which the family had lived for generations. Mitsis noted that with the loss of former retail store Spag’s and other local businesses, it was important that the board find other money and urged them to put a Proposition 2-½ override on the 2014 Town Meeting spring meeting ballot.
Amy Coskie, 2 Blackthorn Rd., then rose to state her feelings of disappointment at what she saw as the town refusing to properly fund the schools as well as the Fire and Police departments. No, she said, the only solution was a tax increase through a Proposition 2-½ override, claiming that Shrewsbury is 310 out of 351 Massachusetts towns and cities (as a percent of the budget) in its support for its schools. Further, she noted, the town pays its teachers too little and that both her husband and their daughters want higher taxes for the schools and fire and police protection.
John Lukach, 4 Bunker Hill Rd. addressed the board with a lengthy list of comments. He said that the “budget crisis” had been foreseen in 2008; at that time the school department “had refused do anything” to head off the current situation. School salaries are up 89 percent in just the past several years, he said, with unsustainable 10 percent a year raises. He also asserted that the truth had not been told regarding either “staffing numbers or costs for years.” Salaries, he said, were the “biggest, most out-of-control part” of the funding shortfall.
DePalo thanked all for coming and noted that the discussion would be input for officials when considering the 2014 Annual Town Meeting warrant.
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