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Committee formed to push for school override approval

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TOWNSEND — After a town election without any campaign signs, the 25 signs encouraging residents to support a Proposition two and a half override for the North Middlesex School Regional School District just seem to stand out.

Resident (and mother of a Hawthorne Brook Middle School student) Lynn LeBlanc has invested $250 of her own money to encourage residents to approve the school override for $714,220.

“I put my money where my mouth is,” said LeBlanc.

LeBlanc said she went to Graphic Signs in Fitchburg hoping to purchase 100 signs.

The owner suggested that the cost would be too high, but managed to work out a lower price.

“He was able to cut it down to $10 per sign because he has two grandchildren that go to school in Townsend,” said LeBlanc.

Her friends, knowing that she had the signs made, asked if she had received any e-mails from Fred Wheeler. When she said she hadn’t, she was introduced to Wheeler.

“I didn’t know he was doing anything, and he didn’t know who I was,” said LeBlanc.

Wheeler, a Regional School Committee member, had filed with the state as a ballot question committee last Thursday.

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts defines a ballot question committee as “a political committee which receives or expends money or other things of value for the purpose of favoring or opposing the adoption or rejection of a specific question or questions submitted to the voters.”

Wheeler said he wasn’t planning on soliciting money, but felt his time could be considered a thing of value.

The committee, titled “Townsend Votes Yes,” officially has two listed members, Wheeler as the chairman and his wife, Deborah, as treasurer.

“In order to file the paperwork we only needed two, but I’ve been in touch with quite a few more people,” said Wheeler.

Wheeler said he has sent a few chain e-mails out to his personal contacts, but they were forwarded to others, like LeBlanc.

The turnout at town meeting shows there are “well over 100” supporters of the cause, Wheeler noted. He added that asking citizens to pay increased taxes is a hard position, but the schools need the money to maintain strong services.

“I don’t want the money to come out of this town budget,” said Wheeler.

The originally certified level-service budget was reduced by $1 million after towns complained that they couldn’t afford the increase, which means the reduction of 20 teaching positions through layoffs and attrition.

“Dr. Marshall (North Middlesex Regional school superintendent) has really tried to cut the school budget as much as possible,” said LeBlanc. “If people think there’s room to cut, they should come down to the schools.”

As an example, LeBlanc stated that at her daughter’s school only has one secretary for 600 students.

“Nothing is more important than education,” said LeBlanc.

If the override fails in Townsend, the school committee will need to recertify another budget that will have to be voted on again at a town meeting.

Wheeler said Townsend Votes Yes will stay active until the school budget is passed.

Updated information about Townsend Votes Yes and its views on the override can be found at www.townsendvotes.blogspot.com, run by Wheeler.

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