School spending package could hurt Templeton public safety budgets

For the Athol Daily News
Published: 8/9/2019 9:50:21 PM
Modified: 8/9/2019 9:50:09 PM

TEMPLETON – Voters from Templeton and Phillipston will gather in a district-wide meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 21 to decide how much cash they will give the Narragansett Regional School District for FY20. The budgets for most of the state’s 289 school districts were nailed down prior to the start of the fiscal year on July 1, but Templeton voters have twice rejected NRSD spending plans and the district is now scrambling to secure a spending plan before classes commence on Sept. 3.

The district’s School Committee is recommending a total budget of nearly $19.8 million. That figure includes $6.9 million from Templeton taxpayers, a reduction from the $7.4 million originally recommended by the School Committee in May. Phillipston voters have already approved $1.7 million as that town’s share of the district budget, but that figure will likely be adjusted downward since the overall budget recommendation has been trimmed.

The remainder of the total will come from state Chapter 70 funds and other sources.

The proposed budget includes $1.15 million; money that was first proposed as a Proposition 2 ½ override. Although passed by Phillipston voters at their annual town meeting and subsequent annual town election, the override was twice rejected by voters in Templeton. Of the additional proposed spending, $990,000 will come from Templeton, about $93,000 from Phillipston.

Templeton Town Administrator Carter Terenzini says the extra $990,000 assessment for schools will have a decidedly negative impact on other town departments.

Terenzini told the ADN he is particularly concerned about it effect on public safety.

“If the school budget passes as recommended,” he said, “we will lose one police officer. Also, we’ll have no local police coverage between the hours of 3 a.m. and 7 a.m. For some shifts, we’ll only have one officer on duty.”

To deal with the potential for decreased staffing, said Terenzini, a public hearing is being held Tuesday to discuss a proposal to trim the operating hours of businesses that serve alcohol.

“We’re looking at having alcohol-serving establishments cease serving at 1 a.m.,” he said. “Currently, they are allowed to serve until 2 a.m.”

He said the Fire Department would also be affected.

“Full-time firefighters would see their hours cut from 48 to 42 a week,” said Terenzini. “That hurts the firefighters because they’ll see their pay drop by around $7,500 annually. It also hurts because that sort of thing makes employee retention more difficult.”

The administrator added the Department of Public Works will be forced to eliminate one worker.

“Because of cuts we might see,” Terenzini continued, “we’ll probably have to re-do the schedule for road plowing this winter. We’ll also have to look at the private plow operators we use to assist the town with plowing.”

Terenzini bemoaned the idea that, despite the fact educational costs continue to rise, the district is due to receive an increase of only $19,000 in state aid.

Phillipston residents are unlikely to notice any changes due to an increase in the educational budget. Chief Administrative Officer Kevin Flynn said voters at the annual town meeting made adjustments in “several reserve accounts” to help deal with a hike in school spending.

“We did make some cuts in some maintenance accounts,” he said, “but there won’t be any cuts in our workforce or in municipal services. We’re in pretty good shape.”

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