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Students Make Plea to Pass Override

Tammy Daniels

Robert Cardimino, left, and music teacher Chris Caproni were talking outside Drury High School. Cardimino said at the meeting that if the teachers voted to return the one percent raise in their contract, he'd support the override.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Three Drury High School students spoke up for their education on Tuesday night, pleading with voters not to slash school programs to balance the budget. 

"I want to leave knowing I can come back here and have a place to be proud of," said Andrew Varuzzo of North Adams, who will be attending Holy Cross in the fall. "I would hate to see this community, this school die a slow death because we could not pass this bill."

The senior and classmates Evan Schueckler and Luke Sisto addressed about a 100 people in the Drury High School auditorium at the second of six planned public sessions on a $1.2 million Proposition 2 1/2 override that city officials say is critical to saving services and school programs.

Schueckler, of Stamford, Vt., is going to Harvard, but hoped to return to the city "to do great things," but not if he wasn't assured his own children would get the same education he received.

Varuzzo said he planned to register to vote on Wednesday "solely for the purpose of voting yes for a Proposition 2 1/2."

Their statements were greeted with applause from an audience that seemed weighted by parents and educators. It was a far cry from last week's City Council meeting, when opponents of the proposal railed at Mayor Richard Alcombright to cut services and use the city's meager reserves to plug a $1 million hole in the fiscal 2012 budget.

"There were more people with different points of view," said the mayor after the 90-minute session. "It felt better to listen a little more.


Override Presentations:
Friday, June 10, Drury High School
Monday, June 13, Greylock Elementary
Wednesday, June 15, Drury High School
Friday, June 17, Greylock Elementary

All presentations begin at 7 p.m.


Alcombright is trying to get the timbre of voters who will be asked on June 21 to raise the city's levy limit to fund a $35.7 million budget, some $15.6 million of which is the school budget. An override would add another $230 on the property tax bill for an average home valued at $134,500.

On Tuesday, the mayor repeated much of the presentation he made last week, noting the city has lost more than $3 million in annual state aid since the economic crisis in 2008 and has burned through most of its reserves.

The city had more than $1 million in free cash in 2008 but the account is now at about $165,000. Most of the funds in the land sale account have been used to offset cuts, although the city is hoping to replenish some of that with the sales of about 60 lots this month and some lands it owns outside its borders.

Alcombright said the much talked about $900,000 in school choice funds will be used to retain special education programs for the next two years, with a $100,000 held out as buffer for other special ed needs. But the failure of the override would mean deep cuts in staff and programs, including drama, music and arts.

At least 100 people attended Tuesday's session and more than a dozen, mostly educators, spoke in favor of the override. Drury Principal Amy Meehan wore an oversized T-shirt that said 'Support Our Students.'

"This are things that we discussed that could possibly be cut if the override doesn't pass," he said, adding that any of the programs slashed might not be reinstated for years. "Some people say I'm threatening .. this is no threat, this is reality." 

Patricia Wall took the mayor to task for waiting too long to bring options to citizens. She said she would have supported a $600,000 override for the school system but that city should look at raising fees and other measures.

"Unfortunately, the ballots are all printed, this is it. It's black and white when we go to vote," she said. "There should have been more options; it was realy not fair to do it this way."

More than a dozen people spoke on the issue, most with links to the school system including Superintendent James Montepare. Former School Committee member Ronald Superneau recalled how Proposition 2 1/2, when it passed in 1980, had devastated the school system and how it had taken the city years to recover.

"I don't like taxes ... but I don't want to see any of this stuff gone," he said. 

But Louis Chalifoux, who spoke against the override last week, said citizens are already being taxed every which way.

"The only tax that any of us have any control over is Proposition 2 1/2. Now why in the world would anybody vote to increase your own taxes when in fact you have the opportunity and the right to control the city's budget," he said to applause. "And that's the key — the buck stops here."

Robert Cardimino, another vociferous opponent of the override, found himself stating he'd support it after music teacher Christopher Caproni, former president of the teachers' union, pledged to vote to give back his one percent raise for next year at the union's Thursday meeting.

"If you do forgo your raises I will vote yes for this proposition," he said, then complained Caproni didn't live in North Adams.

Sisto, the final speaker and president of the Drury Drama Team, said the cuts would "slash the spirit of our school."

"We students are an investment in the future," he said. "Are we not worth $20 a month? For all property owners, are we not worth that extra $20 a month?"

The session was broadcast on Northern Berkshire Community Television. The city's draft budget can be found here and the override presentation here.

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Voting Registration Deadlines

:: Preliminary Election: Deadline to register is Wednesday, Sept. 7. (Office open from 8 to 8.)
:: General Election: Deadline to register is Tuesday, Oct. 18

Registration can be completed at the city clerk's office at City Hall.

Absentee ballots are now available at the city clerk's office for the Sept. 27 preliminary city election. Voters may come in between the hours of 8 and 4:30 weekdays. Written reguests for mailed ballots can be sent to City Clerk's Office, 10 Main St., North Adams, MA 01247. Deadline for absentee ballots is Monday, Sept. 26, at noon.

The preliminary election will be held Tuesday, Sept. 27, to narrow the field of three mayoral candidates to two. The general election to select nine city councilors and a mayor will be held Tuesday, Nov. 8.


 

City Council

Returned Papers
As of 8/9 at 5 p.m.
 Lisa M. Blackmer* Yes
 Michael Bloom Yes
 Keith Bona* Yes
 David Bond* Yes
 Marie Harpin* Yes
 Alan Marden* Yes
 John Barrett Yes
 Eric R. Buddington Yes
 Nancy P. Bullett Yes
 Robert Cardimino Yes
 Catherine Chaput Yes
 Roland G. Gardner  
 Diane M. Gallese-Parsons  Yes
Shane Gaudreau  
 James B. Gyurasz  Yes
 Michael Hernandez  Yes
 Jennifer Breen Kirsch  Yes
Brian L. Flagg  
 Kellie A. Morrison  Yes
 Greg Roach  Yes
 Gail Kolis Sellers  Yes
18 candidates returned papers
 
 Mayor  
 Richard J. Alcombright*  Yes
 Ronald A. Boucher  Yes
 Robert Martelle  Yes
 Preliminary election will eliminate one
 
 School Committee  
 Mary Lou Accetta* Yes
 Lawrence K. Taft* Yes
 Leonard Giroux Jr.  Yes
 Tara J. Jacobs  Yes
 David Lamarre Yes
   
McCann School Committee  
 George M. Canales Yes

Polling stations

St. Elizabeth's Parish Center

Ward 1
Ward 2
Ward 3
Ward 5

Greylock Elementary School

Ward 4


Draft Budget FY2012

School Budget FY2012

Compensation Plan

Classification Schedule 

Fiscal 2011 Budget

Fiscal 2011 Tax Classification

North Adams Audit 2010

North Adams Single Audit 2010

North Adams Management Letters 2010

North Adams School Building Options



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