By Katina Caraganis
The total tax impacts for a proposed Proposition 2 1/2 override to adequately fund the North Middlesex Regional School District budget scheduled to be voted on later this month are considerably less than what the district asked for in its first failed override vote.
The School Committee voted last month 6-1 to approve a budget that is $1,994,291 less than the district’s needs budget, and contains $200,000 from the district’s excess and deficiency account.
Cuts were made to a level-services budget to come up with the total. The utilities, paraprofessionals and unemployment line items all took significant hits to come up with the number.
Townsend Selectmen Bob Plamondon said residents there can expect to see an increase of about $51 per $100,000 in property taxes, and taxes on a single-family home will likely increase by $120 annually.
“On average, this is about half of what the previous override was asking for,” he said. Plamondon said he remembers two overrides passing in recent years, including one for schools and another for trash services.
“I think at this point, I’d have to support this override. I didn’t support the previous one because I thought it was too much money,” he said. “My problem with what the School Committee did was they negotiated a contract with the teachers first, and I think they should have waited until the budget was more finalized.”
Plamondon said he thinks the district administration needs to take a second look at how space in each school building is utilized before asking for more funding.
“My problem with the School Department is they need to do a total reassessment of their space allotment. Some schools are underutilized and some are practically empty and they’re asking for more money,” he said.
He said he still believes a new high school is needed, but a thorough assessment still needs to be done.
“I’m not convinced they are maximizing the utilization of the schools available to them. The occupancy rate is not where it should be, but that’s just me,” he said. “I don’t want to take shots at them, but I think more needs to be done.”
Ashby residents will see a $121 annual residential tax increase if the override is approved, and Selectman Dan Meunier said that number is a lot easier to swallow.
“That’s $10 a month; before, it was around $30,” he said. “Our history in Ashby shows that overrides are not successful, but I think when it’s more of a manageable number, they will look at it more closely. Some people are dead set against overrides completely. Some people wanted to a debt exclusion for one year, but that doesn’t make sense because you’d be bringing back all those teachers for one year only to go through this process again next year.”
The override election will take place Aug. 28.