Shrewsbury Advocates Host First Meeting With Officials

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Shrewsbury Town Manager Daniel Morgado address attendees at the first Shrewsbury Advocates meeting. Photo Credit: John Swinconeck
Shrewsbury Schools Superintendent Joseph Sawyer discusses the state of the district. Photo Credit: John Swinconeck
Lauren Mitsis of the Shrewsbury Advocates steering committee introduces her organization to the public. Photo Credit: John Swinconeck

SHREWSBURY, Mass. — With demand for services outstripping the town's ability to pay for them, some in Shrewsbury are worried that essential school programs will be cut and police and fire departments will continue to go understaffed.

Some got so worried after hearing about the school district's financial troubles in October that they decided to become advocates.

Fast-forward to Wednesday night at the Shrewsbury Public Library, where The Shrewsbury Advocates - a new group formed to preserve public services and schools by providing the community with unbiased information - hosted a discussion with Town Manager Daniel Morgado and Schools Superintendent Joseph Sawyer during its inaugural meeting.

Before about 100 attendees, Morgado and Sawyer discussed how Shrewsbury's explosive population growth in the 1990s meant a greater demand for school and town services, but without the means to pay for it.

With a decrease in state aid and tax-increase limits under Proposition 2½, Morgado and Sawyer said some tough decisions may be made as town and school departments formulate their budgets before Town Meeting in May.

“We're all dealing with the growth of the 1990s,” Morgado said. “We were building 294 single-family homes in '94-'95. … Our tax levy has not kept pace with that.”

Morgado said he "hears a lot of people are in difficult financial conditions,” but also "hears residents saying ''Do something about class size, but make sure my taxes don't go up. Make sure my trash gets picked up.'"

Meanwhile, Sawyer said he is dealing with the highest number of students - about 6,000 - and the largest class sizes he's experienced.

Lorraine Daignault, who moderated the meeting, said in an interview that Shrewsbury “does a tremendous amount with what we have,” but that people are “starting to feel pain” where municipal services are concerned.

One of the ways to protect the town's schools and services is with a well-informed public, she said.

“Knowledge is power, and your words are power. But people don't want to talk, unless you have a knowledge base to speak from," Daignault said. "That's why we wanted to create this - to help inform the people of the community.”

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Comments (6)

jobel:

Paul100, 1) There is no problem with them being a lobbying group. The problem is that either they (or perhaps it was the reporter’s error) presented this group as ‘providing the community with unbiased information’. A lobbying group usually provides selective and biased information that favors its objectives. 2) And of course more information is better, but knowing who is providing the information is just as important in making informed decisions.
Wcmom, 1) You say the meeting was factual, but even if completely true, the information imparted may be misleading, e.g., other facts were not presented. 2) You say there is a great deal of misinformation out in the public. Ok, then let this group provide substantive examples of this misinformation and correct them. 3) I am quite familiar with the budget documents on the town and school websites. The school budget documents themselves contain biased and incomplete facts.

Paul100:

Jobel, you appear to set yourself up as the arbiter of what information is unbiased or complete. Yet you appear to have a bias, from what I gather. You seem to believe that further taxation for town programs is unnecessary, or is a negative. Just seems to me that questioning their motives is a subtle way to criticize their position. I've heard Seniors for Responsible Taxation hold their opinions as "unbiased" also. Let's just let people present their "facts" regardless of whether we agree with them or not. We all determine the validity of these statements in the voting booth, anyway.

miller_robbin:

I look forward to hearing more about ideas and creative ways to pay for services with increasing demands. I would suggest moving the meetings to either the senior center or to the town hall to accommodate larger crowds and for persons with disabilities. Right now, persons with mobility impairments can't attend the meetings at the library. If the group is inclusive, then all residents can be able to attend with unfetted access.

wcmom:

Did you attend the meeting jobel? If you weren't one of the 100+ people in the room, how can you possibly say that anything is "clear?" I was there to see what it was all about and found it to be just that, factual.

There is a great deal of misinformation out in the public about the state of our town's budget and the intent of the group to to give people who aren't as involved and don't visit the Town Hall daily access to clear and factual information. Look at the group's website. It's not an interpretation of facts, it's the links to the actual budget documents and studies. Where's the bias in that?

I think the Shrewsbury Advocates group is necessary and helpful. Your negative comments are not.

Paul100:

Jobel, so what if they are a lobbying group? They feel the people of the town need to hear about funding problems our town programs face. It's fine if people (perhaps like you) don't agree, but more information, not less, helps us cast votes in a more informed manner.

jobel:

So Shrewsbury Advocates says it wants to provide the community with unbiased information. Really? And who do they say is putting out biased information - town officials? And if it's not town officials, then town officials should be providing the public with unbiased information, and Shrewsbury Advocates should be unnecessary.
No, it seems clear that Shrewsbury Advocates is just another lobbying group with its own agenda and its own biases, and whose own communications will be biased in favor of increased taxes and fees.

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