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Mendon Musings

The stupidity is back. Not that it really ever went away.

The idea that anyone associated with the Mendon-Upton Regional School District would even contemplate spending our tax dollars to build artificial turf fields at Nipmuc Regional High School is beyond belief.

Yet, after lying dormant for a few years – coinciding with the passage of the last Proposition 2 1/2 override – I read the idea is again being studied.

I guess the folks running the schools have forgotten how big a tax bite that override was and how most people in Mendon and Upton have no appetite for another one anytime soon.

I can't speak for Upton's needs, but Mendon has more immediate large-cost needs: finally finishing a new police station and expanding the senior center are just two of them.

But, according to what I read, because someone is considering giving the school district some acreage, the whole idea of having turf fields is coming back with a full head of steam.

Let's admit that some folks just suffer from "turf envy" because some towns near us have artificial turf fields at their schools and the New England Futbol Club (NFC) just built a beautiful set-up for soccer on Route 140 in Mendon.

But, by and large, those are larger towns with bigger tax bases and have the type of funding available to do these projects. In Milford, for example, they rolled a new turf field into the $60-million new Woodland Elementary School project and the town also is setting aside $200,000 a year toward converting an existing field into a turf-covered one. And the NEFC is a private, non-profit organization funded by its user fees.

Under the limits set by Proposition 2 ½, Mendon's municipal budget growth increase is $330,998 this fiscal year (Source: page 3, Report of the Finance Committee to the Citizens of Mendon Fiscal Year 2017 – Finance Committee Supplement to the Annual Town Report, dated May 6, 2016). Since Mendon traditionally allocates half of its budget increase to the schools, that would leave $165,499 available for the town's needs.

That's not enough to fund the debt on those two building projects I just mentioned. And, the payment-in-lieu-of-taxes revenue from the solar farms going up all over Mendon will not be going to turf fields. Trust me on that one.

In other words, you can't get blood from a stone and I doubt that even the override-happy residents of Upton will want to swallow another one so soon after the last one.

Unless there are going to be private donations funding the multi-million dollar artificial turf fields for the schools, why don't the school officials just wise up and drop the idea? Call it a learning experience.

We'll pay for educating the next generation of adults. But, not for luxuries that are not essential.


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