$1.85M tech bond returns to towns; Committee's OK looks at need to improve `emergency situation'.


Byline: James F. Russell

BARRE - The outcome was not unanimous, but a sizable majority of the Quabbin Regional School Committee voted Monday to ask district towns - for a third time this year - to support incurring debt to fund improvements to the computer network.

Payments spread over 10 years would total $1.85 million, with 74.3 percent directly financed by the five towns and 25.7 percent paid with money held by the school district, according to figures provided by the administration. The principal would be $1.58 million, and the rest would be interest at an annual rate of 4 percent.

Several proponents on the 14-member School Committee said computer upgrades are long overdue and the board would be negligent if it did not bring the bond measure forward. Opponents said they support the concept, but the towns cannot afford it and the allocation of additional money could jeopardize existing school programs. Twelve members attended Monday's meeting; the vote was 10-2 in favor of putting the question to the towns.

"We are at an emergency situation," board member Susan Benedict of Hubbardston said. "If we don't vote for this, we are negligent."

Committee member Daniel O'Brien of Barre told his colleagues, "We are at the bottom of the totem pole when it comes to technology; let the people speak, it is time to just shut up and vote."

Edward Kelly of Hardwick said, "I am voting no tonight simply for fiscal reasons," noting that "foreclosures in the district are up three times."

Oakham representative Thomas Tashjian said, "It is dangerous to implement a technology plan without tying it to curriculum," adding, "It is putting the cart before the horse."

Under the proposal, Quabbin school district funds would be used entirely to make the loan payments in 2009, then 40 percent in fiscal 2010, and 20 percent in fiscal 2011...

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