EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

February 8, 2013

Timberlane voters add $150,000 to budget for athletic use

By Alex Lippa

---- — PLAISTOW — The Timberlane Regional School District’s athletic programs could see a boost in this year’s budget.

Residents voted 41-34 to add $150,000 to the town’s proposed operating budget at the district’s deliberative session last night.

Atkinson resident Jack St. Pierre proposed the amendment with an eye toward improving athletic facilities.

“I think we owe it to the students to support them with the best of facilities we possibly can,” he said. “There’s a number of assets we can throw at this problem with $150,000.”

St. Pierre specifically mentioned the money could be used for a three-wheel John Deere mower to groom baseball fields.

“What would formerly take a whole day to do by a crew, could now take five minutes,” he said.

He also mentioned replacing the bleachers on playing fields.

The money added to the budget is not obligated to be spent on athletic facilities but Superintendent Dr. Earl Metzler said he would honor the amendment’s intention.

“I think dragging the fields is important in terms of respect for our athletes,” Metzler said. “If that passes, I can guarantee that we will use those funds in the spirit to which they were added to the bottom line.”

The increase to the now $64.4 million proposed budget pushed it $3,747 higher than the default budget. Residents will vote on the budget at Town Meeting on March 12.

St. Pierre also proposed a $75,000 addition to the budget for the installation of batting cages. That amendment was voted down 26-48.

Chris Russell of Plaistow was among the residents who spoke out against adding the money to the budget.

“I’m not opposed to improving our fields or equipment,” she said. “But I don’t think throwing money at the bottom line is the way to do it. I think the way to do it is to evaluate the budget during the review process and look at where the current athletic budget is going.”

Later in the meeting, an attempt was made to cancel out the added money. Jim Garrity of Atkinson proposed an amendment to reduce the teachers’ contract by $150,000 in response to the previously passed article.

“This essentially gives the taxpayers back the money which was just spent a half hour ago,” Garrity said.

Lou Broad, president of the Timberlane Teachers’ Association, outlined the negative effect it would have on the teachers.

“I understand the spirit of what you are trying to do, but there are serious consequences to this,” Broad said. “The least of which would be that we would have to go back to negotiation.”

Many residents also spoke out against the amendment.

“That just took me by surprise,” said Deb Brown of Sandown. “It would be extremely unfair to ask our teachers and our school employees to bear the cost of something we just decided to raise money for.”

Garrity later withdrew the amendment.

An article to add $200,000 to a capital reserve fund for building renovations also advanced to the ballot without amendment.

Only 75 of the district’s 16,923 voters turned out to the meeting which lasted about two and a half hours.