FOXBORO — Hoping to strike just the right chord with town meeting voters, school officials are seeking a major increase in capital spending for the upcoming fiscal year.
According to school Business Manager William Yukna, the $558,500 capital spending request for fiscal 2021 — a 43 percent increase over the current year — is driven by the additional cost of an $82,500 mini-bus, as well as an ambitious multi-year plan to replace $225,000 in aging musical instruments and band equipment.
School music Director Cami Tedoldi recently told committee members the band retrofit, which would cost taxpayers $75,000 a year for the next three years, is long overdue. Many string instruments targeted for replacement are more than 20 years old with some brass instruments approaching 30 years, she said.
Despite an ongoing maintenance program – the music department spends from $10-$15,000 annually in instrument repair – Yukna said that none of the older instruments have any trade-in value.
“They just need to be replaced,” Tedoldi said. “It’s not the best learning experience for our students.”
Specifically, the fiscal 2021 capital request seeks to replace 15 cellos and 7 string basses at the middle and high schools, as well as several brass instruments – including a single tuba valued at $9,600 and two saxophones valued at roughly $5,700 each.
Tedoldi explained that the instruments in question are owned by the school department and assigned to students who already own their primary instrument while learning to play another.
Given the cost considerations, she said it would be unrealistic to expect that families could invest as much as $10,000 in a secondary instrument, especially those with multiple children in the music program.
Also slated for replacement are choral risers used at several school buildings. The lone unit included in next year’s capital request is valued at $18,000 and is also more than 20 years old, Tedoldi said.
Beyond the band equipment and mini-bus purchase, the school department’s fiscal 2021 capital request includes $160,000 to replace two standard, 77-passenger school buses, $200,000 for computer software upgrades and $40,000 to replace four copiers.
These last items are routinely included in the school department’s capital spending each year as part of a rotating program of equipment replacement. If approved, the capital plan would allow transportation officials to replace Bus 2 and Bus 17, as well as mini-bus M-3 – all of which are nine years old.
Foxboro schools operate a fleet of 15 full-size and four mini-buses, one of which is wheelchair accessible. New bus purchases are outfitted with five-point digital camera systems which record both inside and outside the vehicle.