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HARVARD — Roughly 20 parents attended the tri-board meeting of the Board of Selectmen and School and Finance committees to discuss their concerns with how the town’s financial position could affect the schools.

The budget presented by the School Committee during the Jan. 13 meeting calls for an 8.9 percent — $882.502 — increase in spending, but parent Bruce Liecher said that’s warranted to maintain the district’s high standards. He cited reports of classes with 30 students and shortages of lab desks as the result of planning from the bottom line in recent years.

“I think it’s important the town understand what we mean by level-service budgeting,” he said. “From the students’ prospective, it means we’re budgeting less.”

A similar sentiment was voiced by parent Kirsten Wright.

“We have a gem (with the schools), and we also have a town going through growing pains,” she said. “I’m worried we’re going to ruin a gem because we’re trying to deal with the growing pains by cutting where we shouldn’t be cutting,” she said.

The tri-board also faced inquires from resident Todd Brown over the unsettled teacher contracts.

Brown said he’d read published accounts of the teacher and town positions, and they were only $90,000 apart by his reckoning.

“My question is simple: What’s the mathematical difference between the two positions?” he asked.

School Committee member Will Verbits said the committee couldn’t disclose the details of negotiations, but assured Brown that cost analyses were being made of every offer on the table.

Brown persisted, though. He said if the difference is only $90,000 in a $15 million budget, it’s “foolish” to “hold the town hostage.”

There was no response at first from the tri-board, then longtime Finance Committee member Steven Colwell said the issue is the percentage that teachers would contribute toward health insurance benefits. All other town employees pay 30 percent, while teachers pay 10. That’s a circumstance Colwell disagreed with.

“It’s not the money,” he said. “I see it as equity.”

Brown disagreed. He said the issue is one of demanding fair compensation.

“There is a difference between those who empty garbage cans and those who teach our children,” he said. “This talk of equity is a ruse.”

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