Forget about no tax hike in Barrington next fiscal year.
A slim majority of voters at the annual Financial Town Meeting Wednesday evening in the high school auditorium supported a motion to add $144,000 back into the proposed no-tax-hike budget to try to save wood shop at the middle school.
Now they will wait and see if the School Committee puts the wood shop program back into the budget after cutting it several weeks ago. There was no guarantee offered by the School Committee.
The vote in favor of adding more tax dollars to the school budget was 68-65 – a recount of an initial 61-52 vote in favor of wood shop. A second standing vote was taken when one voter said tellers counted some people twice. Moderator Julia Califano asked for a recount. It didn't change the result.
With the passage of the motion, taxpayers will see the tax rate go to $18 per $1,000 of assessed value – up about 5 cents from the current rate. For a home with a $300,000 assessed value, that means a $15 tax hike.
The addition of the $144,000 to the school budget raises the total municipal, schools and capital budgets to $62.07 million. The schools budget is $44.7 million; the municipal budget is $16.61 million; the capital budget is $745,500.
The vote on the wood shop motion came after a parade of supporters followed William and Kari Banas, who introduced the motion, to the microphone. Perhaps no one was as supportive as Ken Jackson, of Lincoln Avenue, who put his money where his mouth was.
Jackson donated $100 to the school budget specifically for the wood shop.
“Wood shop opened up a whole new world for me,” said Jackson, who described himself as a less than outstanding student as a young teen. He went on to earn a mechanical engineering degree, Jackson said.
Ann Strong of Teed Avenue, a member of the Planning Board, said: “It would be a travesty to remove wood shop.”
Scott Douglas of Rumstick Road, said: “A five cent increase underwrites the value of your property. It maintains the reputation of the schools.”
Joel Hellmann, of Richmond Avenue, said: “It isn’t all about computers and calculus and AP classes."
Nancy Morrissette, of Ferry Lane, described wood ship as “a life skill for our children. It’s a nickel for our kids.”
“You are also compromising the robotics program,” said Sarah O’Brien, referring to the shuffling of a wood shop teacher with more seniority to robotics while laying off a colleague.
Superintendent Robert McIntyre said: “He will have to be retrained.”
Kathy Cadigan reminded voters that the School Committee does not have to spend the $144,000 on wood shop if it sees a more valuable venue for that money.
School Committee Chairman Patrick Guida said: “We made that cut without enthusiasm, just as we cut a reading specialist and a special education teacher as well. If the money would come in, we would certainly take the vote into consideration.”
No guarantee, though, that the School Committee will save wood shop. Indeed, every member of the School Committee voted against the motion.
“Do you really think that this money is best spent on wood shop?” asked Town Councilor Bill DeWitt.
Numerous voices rang out with an aswer: “Yes!” Moderator Julia Califano had to ask for silence.
Using some of the built-in surplus in the school budget was suggested by John Fitta of New Meadow Road.
“If you’re not going to listen to the Committee on Appropriations, move some money from the surplus to operations,” he suggested.
“Every year a lightning rod comes up, usually in the school budget,” said Tim Sweetser of Roberta Drive, the vice chair of the appropriations committee. “This is about asking the School Committee to rein in expenses in one year.”
The COA did not suggest that the wood shop be cut, he said. The School Committee did that.
“Go to the next School Committee meeting and ask them to find a way to raise $144,000,” Sweetser said. “We’re asking only for no tax hike.”
Cadigan prefaced the COA’s report to the town meeting by saying that “I have the honor this evening of delivering the delightful news that, pending your approval this evening, there will be no property tax increase of any kind in Barrington” in the next fiscal year.
Supporters of wood shop at the middle school scuttled that goal. There will be tiny tax hike after all.