Shrewsbury Selectmen Frustrated With School Budget Debate

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Shrewsbury Selectman James Kane said he is frustrated with the debate over the school budget.
Shrewsbury Selectman James Kane said he is frustrated with the debate over the school budget. Photo Credit: John Swinconeck (file)

SHREWSBURY, Mass. — Frustration is brewing among Shrewsbury Selectmen over the school district's proposed budget, with several board members saying Tuesday that they were growing tired of being reminded by residents of the budget crunch.

"It's beyond foolishness," Selectman James Kane said of some people's belief that the selectmen do not understand the town's budget woes.

"This isn't a town of drama," Kane said. "This isn't a town of showboating. This a town of blocking and tackling municipal government."

The selectmen and the town manager "care very deeply" about the school system, he said. The construction of a new middle school was made a priority over renovations at the library, Kane cited as an example.

"We realize (there's a budget issue) because we're trying to solve it," he said. However, without an official budget from the Board of Education, the selectmen cannot do much, Kane said. "Another 37 emails telling us there is a problem does nothing."

Shrewsbury School Superintendent Joseph Sawyer has recommended a $54 million budget for the fiscal year 2014 — a nearly 9 percent increase over this year. Town Manager Daniel Morgado's school budget recommendation is about $4 million less.

A public hearing on the school budget will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Oak Middle School Auditorium.

The school board must come up with a solid number, so the budget process can begin, Kane said.

"Until this endless listening tour comes to an end, and an actual budget determined, none of this does a thing," he said.

Chairman Maurice DePalo said he shared Kane's frustration. "I do appreciate the letters from parents," he said. "I'm frustrated because I'm not sure they understand that we are also concerned."

DePalo added, "There are financial limitations as to what we can do."

The budget process is often difficult, Selectman John Lebeaux said. "It's a long, slow process" of reaching a compromise between the school committee and selectmen. "History has proven that what we see in February is not what we wind up with in May."

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Comments (11)

If the leaders are frustrated then they should let the residents of this town vote to for an override or not. If you don't give us the option to use our vote to determine what should be funded or not then grow a back bone and deal with the complaints. Also while I agree the state is messed up we need to stop hiding behind "we are pushing back at the state" and use the available tools we have. If the leaders of this town wont let us vote to use the tools we have then we should stop voting for them.

" Cant we all just get along???"

They sensationalize the budget every year. They have no funds, they have to cut teachers, they have to increase fees. BUT they pull money from the air. Where are they finding this magical funding? or where are they hiding it as one person commented?

If they are that cash strapped wouldnt it be a great idea for them to have kindergarten for anyone who wants it instead of having this out dated lottery system they doesn't help the kids who need full day? 1/2 day kindergarten doesnt help the student. It hurts them. There is s distinct difference between a full time student and the 1/2 day student.

I dont mind paying more for in taxes to help the children isnt that why many people moved to Shrewsbury for the school?

I am sure in 2 or 3 months and Dan M will find more money than the $400,000 (ball park figure) he allowed a few weeks ago.

MsB - there is now full day kindergarten for all who want it. The only lottery is for location. Most of the students go to Beal, but there are some classes at Spring and Coolidge this year. We laid off 30 people last year - including one first grade and one fourth grade teacher at Spring and Paton each. There was no money to save those teachers (retirements kept a few jobs, but not classes). There are 30 children in every 4th grade class at Spring. First grades have nearly 30 as well. We probably won't get back the teachers we lost last year, but I just hope we don't lose any more.

I bought my home 10 yrs ago in Shrewsbury for location, and lower costs than other towns, not the school kids for me. (not worried about the protection of my race.) I know kids are very expensive and did not mind paying for my education 20 yrs ago, now....but not at these kinds of rate increases each year, after year.

Oh, BTW the 2 Shrines construction costs, for which I have toured, are not even in the operational budget that the School Dept are looking to increase at a 7%-8%. Just this year. The Shrines construction costs, are a 20 yr tax increase, albeit decreasing as we go. So, add that to the Opp costs too.

When will there be a School Dept Operation decrease? Yes, half of the whole pie is a huge chunk of my tax monies. One would think, with all the new technology, IPADS, and Apple Computers...we would start to see a Tech dividend relating to a decrease in the amount of total teachers needed.
But, no, no, no........Schools need lower class sizes.....that is a bunch of BULL-HOCKEY...School class size should be irreverent with new technology!

Any chance to sell the old Sherwood School to a town like Worc, or any town that needs a decent school. There are many towns with much worse schools than that, with no talk of replacement, in fact they would love a school like that. It really was not that bad to justify a new Shrine.

Or even a night school....or how about our own in-town Sped school, where we can take out-of town placements and charge then an arm and a leg.

We have to come to grips with this, we are running out of money, but continue to spend like a drunken sailor on liberty. Education, infrastructure repair is very important to our future however if the continuing tax bleeding of the American taxpayer continues we will never get out of this predicament.

"Pay for what we as a community value.." That is an interesting quote. An article about the school budget garners immediate response from many people defending their position. A recent article about the fire department garners little or no response. The supporters of the school and the school committee continue to bully those smaller department supporters in every aspect of these conversations. "Insurance costs go up for 1000 person department its much larger for a department with 10." You are correct, and the argument goes the same for the salaries of the employees. So should the school department employees not get a raise because its a larger group? Should the smaller departments expect less because the schools are all getting the money? Of course not.

FINALLY the board of selectmen are seeing the light of day that there are other issues in town that need to be addressed. Mr. Sawyer lays out these proposals of cuts and class sizes and at the final hour the ticker tape rains down on top of them as they celebrate how the made the budget work or got more money here or there etc. Id like to see more support for the municipal side of the town including police, fire, highway, water etc. Its those employees and services that deserve a little respect and support from OUR COMMUNITY.

You missed my point, Mr. Lowry, or maybe I didn't make it clear in trying to stay brief: ALL of our departments are in serious trouble. The fire chief has made that very clear and we need to find more funding to support that department as well. My point is that the school department shouldn't be the lighting rod nor the solution to every fiscal crisis. We can't cut fire any more than we have. We can't cut police any more -- but we can't find the money to help those departments "hidden" in the school department line items either. We don't have enough money to adequately fund any of these essential departments. Rather than pit on against another, I think folks are trying to show (at least I am!) that we need to find a way to bring in more revenue...and complaining that it's all Beacon Hill's fault doesn't get us closer to solutions, nor does mocking Dr. Sawyer. He knows they're not going to get the 4mil - but anything less than 2 mil is more cuts. The budget process is just beginning and each department head asks for what it would take to fully fund their department and to restore what has be already lost. They know they're not getting it all, but it's a place to start at. Lots of discussion yet to come, but it's not all the school's problem, and the schools certainly don't get "all" the money.

Enough with saying the school department is hiding things! That tired argument is completely untrue. All of our municipal departments have lean budgets. The schools are an easy target because they're the biggest. When insurance costs go up for 1,000 employees, it's a much larger bump than in a department with 10! Enough sarcasm and insinuation. It's time for our town to figure out how to pay for what we as a community value. It's really not a spending problem - it's a revenue problem. Where are your solutions for that "krobkoe." If you've got all the answers, please share some constructive ones rather than slamming newcomers to town.

@WCmom. now you sound like Nancy Pelosi, please we do have a spending problem with the federal government running the tank on deficit funding. Even the White House ran from what Ms. Pelosi (a Multi-millionare) had said. Patrick wants to do a 180 on the Income tax and sales tax, in my mind putting a larger burden on the middle class. I can control my spending on sales tax items, of course that is not good for the overall local, state and federal economies, however I have no control on income tax. I have to pay the prevailing rate with not much recourse in lowering it. As I am sure you are fully aware of the price of commodities, medical, transportation, higher education continue to outpace what a middle class family earns, it is no secret that wages have been stagnant for some time transcending the current and past administration. I beg to differ with you, we do have a spending problem, it must be reined in or our future looks pretty bleak. Taking more from the American people will only impede any future economic growth, we do fuel the economy with our spending, not the government. The government does not make any consumer products, unless you want to throw in GM. In my humble opinion.

Gee, what will happen if "the other half" puts their 2 person, non kid, homes up for sale, with a handicapped ramp, 4 bedrooms, with a view... up for sale to Far East families that want to move close to "Patel's".

Ok, I get a 15% premium for my house sale, and Shrewsbury gets a nice, non- English or SPEDbury tax go.

Don't even try to tell me that, we have a better School District than other towns in the area...especially east of us, albeit at 1/4 less of their costs. Trust me, the costs are hidden for us. Just financed out for many years. Dan M. and the school district are very creative.