Clarksburg Voters Sink 'Raid' on School Account
Voters stand to be counted at Wednesday's town meeting. There was a heavy turnout as parents spread the word about the proposed withdrawals from the school account. At right, Superintendent Jonathon Lev says the school needs repairs.
A preview and the town meeting warrant can be found here.
During a somewhat fiery meeting, more than 100 voters — the largest turnout in recent memory — peppered town officials with questions over the need for a new cruiser or to dip into free cash.
What really had them riled up was a proposal to transfer some $50,000 out of a $125,000 stabilization fund established for renovations to the elementary school through the School Building Authority to set up accounts for a new cruiser, Department of Public Works truck and the well.
"It was my understanding that the stabilization fund would be for the school, which it doesn't look like it's going to happen in the near future; however, we're going to need money for Band-Aids we've been putting on the school for the last 12 to 15 years," said School Committee Chairman David Berger.
Finance Committee Chairwoman Mary Beverly, who had suggested dipping into the fund, said the reasoning was that the money wasn't being used and the school building committee had made no plans.
"The money's been sitting there idle for these seven years and it was supposed to be put up to get us points on an application to go for a school building assistance loan," she said. "We just thought the town had so many other needs right now, rather than borrow more money at this point, we were going to put some aside for some of the needs that are more imminent for other departments."
Resident Christopher Caproni said he'd rather the town had taken the $30,000 in free cash used to reduce the tax rate and put it toward the police cruiser instead.
"Thank you for returning me the $80, but I've already given it to you," he said. "Why not spend it on what the town needs. How is the school not a capital investment? I'm sure the school could spend $125,000."
Mary Beverly explains one of the articles.
Superintendent of Schools Jonathan Lev said the school was low on the SBA priority list but it needs repairs now, including fixes to the boiler that recently failed inspection.
Town Adminstrator Michael Canales said he'd help Lev and the School Committee apply for grants for green buildings to upgrade the boiler and windows as has recently been done in Florida and Savoy.
Selectman Carl McKinney said he wanted to see the school fixed but took umbrage that the town was being accused of "raiding" the school fund. The school superintendent had made no effort to move the project forward, he said, aiming at both Lev and his predecessor.
"We gave you $40,000 for a new furnace six years ago ... and you spent it on a portable computer," said McKinney. "Then you come back and you're telling us we are going to raid your fund?"
In the end, voters approved establishing an account to replace the 125,000-mile, 2000 Jeep Cherokee police cruiser but rejected putting money from the school fund into it. After some time discussing the Senior Center well (which must be replaced by 2016) they not only defeated the transfer but defeated establishing the account as well, causing one voter to caution that they think more carefully before moving onto articles for the DPW truck.
Beverly said the town really needed to replace the barely-functioning 1996 International dump truck before next winter. If voters OK'd establishing the account, she pledged to amend the following article to take the money from the town's $229,000 stablization fund. Voters took her up on her offer, approving both the account, the transfer and the following articles authorizing the town to borrow money for the $153,000 truck.
All other articles, including the town budget of $1.065 million, school budget of $2.355 million and a McCann Technical School assessment of $183,000 passed with little or no debate. Approved were the institution of a meals tax of .75 percent, the application for a state grant of $500,000 for road paving, and the second of three $10,000 transfers from the Sewer Enterprise Fund to the general fund.
An attempt to raise the salary of Town Clerk Carol Jammalo, who had asked for a raise during budget negotiations, was rejected.
At Tuesday's election, all incumbents were re-elected unopposed. John Blair was elected tree warden and Gary Pierce to four-year seat on the Planning Board with write-in votes. A vacant seat on the Board of Health received 11 write-ins but there was a tie for top votes, meaning the board and the Selectmen will meet to appoint someone.