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Supplemental budget should eliminate student fees

Date: 9/21/2011

Sept. 21, 2011

By Debbie Gardner

Assistant Editor

AGAWAM — The School Committee suspended its formal rules and voted to accept the proposed $97,000 supplemental School Department budget last Tuesday night, but not every committee member was completely satisfied with how the money was going to be utilized.

By a vote of 7-0, the committee accepted the budget, with the intent that the monies be used to eliminate the proposed $100 per sport athletic fee for Agawam High School students, and reduce the student parking fee at the school from a proposed $160 back to $40 per car.

“I’m extremely pleased,” Mayor Richard Cohen said of the committee’s vote.

Money for the supplemental budget is a portion of an expected $225,300 windfall in additional state aid that Agawam expects as a one-time payment from the State Legislature. The amount of aid, which is part of an estimated $65 million surplus in the state’s fiscal year 2011 (FY11) general fund, was determined using the lottery formula for FY12 aide for cities and towns.

School Committee members Diane Juzba and Linda Galarneau said they were also happy that by accepting the supplemental budget, the committee could eliminate the town’s first-ever student fees.

“I wish this could have been decided closer to budget time rather than after the start of the school year though,” Galarneau said. “I think parents and students were very stressed out over the fees and rightfully so ... As a parent I know the importance of having your kids involved in sports and other extracurricular activities and I understand the financial burden that was placed on them by instituting fees. I am very happy that burden is no longer there. ”

School Committee member Kathleen Mouneimneh, however, told Reminder Publications she would have liked to have seen some of the money used to replace staff.

“It disturbed me last spring when the decision was made not to replace the retiring math teacher,” Mouneimneh said. “When I heard that we were going to get this money, that was the first thought that came to my mind.”

Mouneimneh said she considered proposing that the committee reduce the athletic fee to $50 per student, with a $200 per family cap, and use the remaining funds to re-hire a math teacher, but felt there would not be support for that move.

Cohen said the supplemental budget still requires approval by the City Council, which was expected to take the measure up at its Sept. 19 meeting.

Debbie Gardner can be reached by e-mail at

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