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Similar to the first time around last year, we believe the athletic field proposal Shirley taxpayers will be voting on Sept. 28 is still not the most cost-effective plan to meet its stated objectives.  For reasons which they have not fully justified, the Ayer Shirley Regional School District stills feel compelled to waste over $600 thousand dollars on frivolous items – like a concession stand and a press box – both of which have no impact on education, improved sports performance or on reducing injuries.

In addition, while it may be noble and understandable to want to retain baseball on its limited campus, we believe it is not financially prudent to spend almost $2 million, or 1/3 of this project’s cost on it, when the team doesn’t even have enough high school students without middle school students on their team?  Meanwhile, over a hundred students want to play soccer, yet the school board decided to cut one of the proposed soccer fields in this current reiteration to preserve two baseball fields.

When the school committee rolled out its preliminary plan for our two elementary schools last May, it came with an estimated price tag of about $50 million for Page Hilltop; $32-44 million for Laura White; and about $80 million for a regional school – with a likely state assistance only for a regional school solution.  This would pose an additional tax burden for Shirley residents of at least six times that posed by the athletic fields.

Previously it was their stated intent to bring this matter to our town meeting last May to form a joint committee to begin the planning process to meet this urgent need.  Unfortunately, the school committee kicked this can down the road in lieu of voting for the fields again.

We believe that the school committee needs to readjust its priorities and realize that the Shirley taxpayers have limited resources to meet both needs.

For these reasons we recommend a “No” vote on September 28.

John O’Keefe, chairperson, Shirley Finance Committee