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TOWNSEND — Faced with a possible $2.25 million budget shortfall, the North Middlesex Regional School Committee is trying to find ways to reduce spending while minimizing the impact on the students’ learning.

Some residents and students are urging the committee to achieve the goal by doing two things — keeping music programs alive and renegotiating raises with teachers and other district workers.

School contracts seem to provide raises at higher rates than those in private industries do, said Townsend parent Kristine Bouchard as she expressed her frustration for the growing cost of personnel during last night’s School Committee budget hearing.

Winning concessions on raises may be difficult, she said, adding that she thinks the idea “is dismissed too easily,” drawing applause from the audience.

Some said the committee also should try to avoid cutting programs that give families the reason to send their children to North Middlesex.

Zachary Caraviello, a junior at North Middlesex, said he chose North Middlesex over Bishop Guertin High School in Nashua because of the bands.

“Please think about your decision deep and hard,” Caraviello told the school finance subcommittee about the idea to eliminate the fourth-grade instrument program.

The School Committee’s hearing on the fiscal 2011 budget drew several dozen residents to the high-school auditorium last night.

According to Superintendent of Schools Maureen Marshall, it would cost the district $43.7 million next year, or $2.25 million more than this year, to maintain all of the existing positions and programs. The scenario calls for a continued sharing of the superintendent position with the Quabbin Regional School District.

With state grants dwindling, towns would likely have to shoulder more for the school budget in fiscal 2011 than in fiscal 2010. And district officials are contemplating various budget-reduction options, ranging from consolidating some positions at the Central Office to eliminating four high-school teaching positions.

The options Marshall presented earlier this month also include elimination of a fourth-grade music program, which prompted many residents and students to make passionate pleas against the move both at the budget hearing and at the preceding meeting of the school finance subcommittee.

Some parents said they would have opted for the school-choice program or a private school had it not been for the strong music programs that North Middlesex offers.

“Please consider anything but cutting this, if not enhancing it,” Ashby parent Rich Foresman told the subcommittee about the music program.

Other residents also stressed the importance of maintaining the world-language programs at the middle school and urged the School Committee to sustain the programs that the district has invested in.

Some people said, however, that the School Committee should do more to address a root cause of the fiscal woes — the growing salaries.

“Level-funding the budget is not enough,” said Townsend resident Doug Lyons, pointing out that personnel costs appear to be growing by several percentage points.

Marshall said that’s because teachers agreed to give up their raises for this year, making the fiscal 2011 increases appear sharper than they are.

Marshall added that she prefers that the committee discuss the possibility of approaching unions for concessions in closed-door negotiations, rather than in public.