With a proposed 5 percent budget increase going before the Nashoba Valley Technical School Committee, and a total increase of $300,000 in the assessments for the member towns, some residents in Pepperell and Townsend are concerned that the increases are too steep as the towns face budget concerns of their own.
Pepperell Town Administrator John Moak said the increases, which are largely a result of increased enrollment, present a challenge for Pepperell, which is facing a growing budget deficit if an override is not passed this spring.
"I don't want to be negative about any school system. I believe fully in public schools and I think Nashoba has taken great advantage of the fact that they are well respected and has worked hard to make their facilities incredibly good. Their student-teacher ratio is incredibly good, and that's all wonderful. But it really doesn't flow with what's happening in the world for many of our communities that are there," Moak said.
Moak said that the increased assessments put the town at even more of a disadvantage in regard to its operational budget, making a proposed override go less far than it otherwise would.
For some residents, the increases are upsetting at a time when the towns are already struggling.
Pepperell resident Sue Boswell said that she is concerned about the high expenditures coming out of Nashoba Tech.
"The tech budget should cover their necessary teaching salaries, adminstrators and supplies, the same guidelines expected by the North Middlesex school district," Boswell said. "When member towns are struggling to simply level-fund, it would be refreshing to have the associated technical school held to the same financial constraints."
Townsend resident Todd Melanson said he considers himself a vocal supporter of education, but has vowed to challenge the Tech budget on Town Meeting floor unless it is reduced.
"While we the parents of NMRSD have fought and scraped to try and keep level services through some harsh financial times, with little or no success, Nashoba has had a relatively easier time of it. Just look at past override initiatives and how divisive they were for our communities, what past and present administrations had to endure to keep level services. Then look at the regular increase in the Nashoba budget over the past few years, while only presenting a nice Power Point at Town Meeting," Melanson said.
However, others say the increases are needed given the growth at Nashoba Tech.
Town administrator Andrew Sheehan called the budget "defensible."
"Overall, when you look at per pupil cost, which is one of the primary metrics that people use to look at school funding, Nashoba Tech is the lowest in the state among vocational schools," Sheehan said.
Karen Chapman, who represents Townsend on the Nashoba Tech school committee, said that a technical high school has different needs than a traditional high school, which affects the budget.
"With a vocational school you always need to be on the cutting edge of technology so students get the best education they can and get ready for employment when they get out of high school," Chapman said.
She added that technology is cycled throughout the school, so that the technology departments have the newest equipment but the older pieces are still used elsewhere in the school.
Superintendent Judith Klimkiewicz did not return calls for comment.
Follow Chelsea Feinstein on Twitter and Tout @CEFeinstein.