Reduced School Year Assessment for Stow

By Ann Needle   

As plans were laid out for the new school year, Stow taxpayers received some good news at the Nashoba School Committee’s first meeting of the 2013/14 year held on Tuesday night.

In sum, Superintendent Michael Wood noted that new state accounting rules and corrections made to enrollment numbers mean Stow’s assessment is about $150,000 less than its original 2013/14 calculation. Lancaster sees an $85,000 drop, while Bolton’s contribution ticks up by $200,000.

Detailing what is behind the changes, Wood explained that the state finally approved Chapter 70 aid numbers for its school districts recently, along with accounting changes for calculating town assessments. “In addition to that, we had a calculation error in enrollment,” Wood said, something he also explained to the School Committee last spring. Even though the enrollment number was corrected, “Bolton still ended up with the largest swing,” he remarked.

The Committee voted unanimously to accept the “new” budget with the shifted assessments. But, Committee Chairman Nancy Federspeil of Bolton clarified that the budget itself will not change.

Wood explained that each Nashoba town can accept the new numbers simply by not putting them to a special Town Meeting vote this fall. Given that Bolton is the only town where the assessment is going up, he commented that the town is most likely to put the revised assessment to a vote. However, given that all three towns have special TMs slated before the end of the calendar year, Wood pointed out that Stow and Lancaster also may choose to vote on the change.

Complications could set in if Bolton votes down the increase. According to Assistant Superintendent George King, the law still states that a town’s assessment cannot be increased after the budget is approved. If Bolton rejects the $200,000 increase, the money basically would need to be paid out of the Nashoba budget somehow, perhaps from free cash. Still, Committee members expressed confidence that, given Bolton voters were informed at May TM that this could happen, they will approve the increase.

Next Up for High School Fields
The renovation of Nashoba Regional High School’s athletic fields is ready to move to its next phase. According to Wood, the new concessions complex should be finished by the Football Team’s Thanksgiving Day game. Slated to be built near the front gate (as was the former stand), the concession package is budgeted at $200,000, Wood reported. Along with an updated food concession, it includes bathrooms, a larger garage, and an entrance archway to the fields. While administrators have said the new stand and garage should be welcome, the bathrooms may be a necessity; they have complained in the past that sending spectators into the school to use the facilities represented a safety hazard.

Meanwhile, talk continued from last spring over approving a final version of the legally required District Improvement Plan. The Committee shied away from approving the 2012/13 Plan at the end of last school year, as it waited to review results from a district survey of Nashoba families. The survey aimed to gauge what residents think should be priorities for Nashoba.

By the end of the discussion, the Committee unanimously approved the Plan. The goals are: To foster and sustain educational services that support, enrich, and extend the curriculum for all students; to identify indicators that demonstrate unity and parity in the quality across district schools; to improve the necessary space, materials, and technology for a quality education; and better communication.

Also in the making since last spring, Wood’s annual goals were approved unanimously. Wood noted that his goals have been closely tied to those of the District Improvement Plan. Under Wood’s goal of improving family and community engagement with Nashoba, Stow Rep. Lynn Colletti voiced concern that, while Wood has suggested community forums for helping communicate more clearly with Nashoba residents, “The same people always show up.” She suggested getting people outside of these usual circles involved, such as the Councils on Aging and Lions Clubs in each town. “The schools are 60% of the budget, it affects everyone,” Colletti commented.

The Committee also voted unanimously to accept a $903 donation to Nashoba Athletics from two Bolton families. The donation will help fund equipment needed for this year’s start-up of the Unified Street Hockey Club.