EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

February 7, 2014

Voters reject attempt to slash Timberlane budget

Amendment would have cut $2.4 million.

By Alex Lippa

---- — PLAISTOW — A standing-room-only crowd rejected an attempt to slash the Timberlane Regional School District budget by almost $2.5 million last night at the district’s deliberative session.

Much of the debate was centered around the amendment proposed by Sandown resident Arthur Green. Green’s wife, Donna made a lengthy presentation about the benefits of cutting the budget.

“I’m suggesting a flat-line budget because I feel the district is on an unsustainable course,” said Green, who is also a member of the Budget Committee. “Sixty-four million dollars is what the budget is actually running on right now.”

A $66.4 million budget was unanimously recommended by the School Board. Green was the only member of the Budget Committee to vote against the recommended budget.

Green cited declining enrollment and a large surplus as the primary reasons for cutting the budget.

“There would be no classroom impact to these cuts,” she said. “To say nothing should be cut in an operation of this size with as many employees we have is absurd and very self-serving of the administration, in my opinion.”

The amendment failed, 372-239.

Before the amendment failed, many voters took to the microphone to speak against the cuts.

“A vote to cut the proposed budget will do nothing to help our 3,924 children,” said Brian Stack of Plaistow. “Such a vote will do nothing to help our teachers, our school administrators and our elected school officials, who are working hard to make our district one of academic excellence.”

Stack is the principal of Sanborn Regional High School.

“(Green’s) remarks missed the point,” he said. “She addressed concerns that are not appropriate for this forum and for this audience. She is frustrated with the ever-decreasing federal and state aid that our schools receive to meet the burdens placed upon them. Her frustrations have some validity, but now is not the time or place to bring them out.”

Brenda Copp of Sandown said cutting the budget would provide a lift to her town’s taxpayers.

“We got hit very hard with taxes this year,” she said. “ I want everyone to consider us when it comes to this budget.”

The property tax rate went up more than 30 percent in Sandown this year.

Sandown residents represented the biggest contingent in attendance last night, with 278 voters. Overall, 633 registered voters turned out.

The meeting was delayed by 45 minutes as the line for voter check-in at the Sandown table wrapped around the auditorium. Several elementary school students were in attendance, holding signs saying, “We are the future” and “Do not cut the budget.”

Residents said they came out to vote because of concerns over potential budget cuts.

“I’ve got a child in high school and a child in middle school,” Laura Flieder of Atkinson said. “I’m concerned and I don’t have a right to complain if I don’t come out to vote.”

At the beginning of the meeting, Superintendent Earl Metzler, marveled at the number of people who turned out.

“This is what they’re talking about when they talk about the democratic process,” he said. “Thank you all for coming out tonight. The question is whether you’re all ready to get to work.”

After Green’s amendment failed, Atkinson resident Jack Sapia made a motion to add $750,000 for artificial turf on the football field. But the motion failed after no one else supported it.

Voters ended up sending the $66.4 million budget to the warrant as written. The default budget is $65.9 million.

Residents will have the final say on the budget at Town Meeting on March 11.