Westborough School Committee cautions budget not final


By Bonnie Adams Government Editor

Westborough – The Westborough School Committee has not yet met with school administrators to finalize its preliminary Fiscal Year (FY) 2012 budget, members said at their Feb. 9 meeting; therefore, the number indicated as the district's budget at a public hearing on the town's overall FY12 budget – $39.9 million – should just be considered a “place holder,” according to School Committee member Stephen Doret.

“That is not the final number; it's an atmospheric number, almost a feel good story,” Doret said. “But using that number does not serve the best interests of the town.”

Doret voiced similar concerns at the public hearing held during the Feb. 8 Board of Selectmen meeting. The $39.9 million did not take into account any future labor negotiations, he added.

At the School Committee meeting, member Craig Harris agreed with Doret, adding that he was “very, very bothered by the process.

“People have good intentions, but by law the School Committee is charged with the school budget,” he said. “The economy over the past few years has caused us to get off track with that.”

The School Committee has not yet decided when the public hearing on the district's budget will be held, Chair Ilyse Levine-Kanji said.

In other news, Superintendent Marianne O”Connor told the committee that she certainly understood the frustration the community had with the number of school postponements and closings that have occurred so far this year due to the weather.

“It's not an easy decision to make,” she said, “and not one made solely by me, but I'sl take full credit.”

O”Connor said she is part of a “collaborative of seven other superintendents” who stay in touch to assess the weather conditions.

So far this year, the district has had four snow days. There are five built into the calendar, Levine-Kanji said. If all of those are used, the school year would end June 21. However, the district can extend the year up until June 30 if need be.

Dan Hendricks, the director of Business and Administration, noted that one issue the district has not had to worry about as of yet were the schools” roofs collapsing from the weight of snow and ice.

“We don's have any problems yet – we'se been very proactive,” he said. “The process was started last week. Most of the roofs have been done but there is still some work that needs to be done at Fales.”

Doret agreed.

“We were underway right away,” he said. “It's a tremendous benefit to the community. The guys have done a great job.”

Another problem that was resolved quickly, O”Connor noted, was a gas leak at Armstrong

Elementary School early in the morning Feb. 9.

“It happened before school started,” she said. “The staff reacted very quickly. The students were bused to Gibbons and then were back [at Armstrong] by 9:05a.m. Everyone did a great job.”

In other news, O”Connor noted that 24 Westborough High School students recently received recognition by the Boston Globe Scholastic Art Awards. Additionally, 14 students were accepted into the Massachusetts Music Educators Association All-State Festival.

She also announced that the district has received a $2,000 donation from the Westborough Girls Lacrosse program, which will help pay for the annual maintenance to the artificial turf field at the high school.

In other business, Harris informed the board that he will not be running for reelection this year. He is stepping down after serving nine years on the board.

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