By Mitch Evans
Bedford’s School Committee came together for an emergency session on July 25, to vote on an unusual request. It has come to their attention that a newly built property at 607 Springs Road actually crosses two municipalities. The $899,000, 4- bedroom home has a Bedford address but because of its location, pays the majority of its property taxes to Billerica.
As no previous house existed on this parcel of land, developer Daniel Williams attempted to do the right thing and contacted the Bedford School District to enquire if any future owners would be entitled to send their children to the schools here in Bedford. He received a letter confirming this would be the case and the house was completed, to Bedford specifications, at the end of 2015.
However, this ruling is contrary to Massachusetts town policy and law, and potential buyers have been informed that their children would in fact have to go to schools in Billerica even though the property has a Bedford address. Interestingly, the building permits for this land were issued through Billerica but the land is registered in two counties, North and South Middlesex. Both Bedford Fire and Police departments confirmed that they would respond to this property in the event of an emergency.
So why was a vote needed from the School Committee?
Because according to Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 76 ,Section 5, “Every person shall have a right to attend the public schools of the town where he actually resides, subject to the following section. No school committee is required to enroll a person who does not actually reside in the town unless said enrollment is authorized by law or by the school committee.”
Chapter 76, section 12 states, “Any child, with the consent of the school committee of the town where he resides, may attend, at the expense of said town, the public schools of another town, upon such terms as may be fixed by the two committees.”
Four options were presented to the School Committee for their vote last night:
- Option 1: As stated above, the committee has a right to simply vote to allow any children who reside at this address to attend Bedford schools.
- Option 2: According to section 12, an agreement can be drawn up between Bedford and Billerica school committees which ensures that educational costs are shared between the two towns.
- Option 3: A three person written contingency agreement may be drawn up between the developer or the next purchaser and the Bedford and Billerica school committees. This contract should be investigated and drawn up to ensure future funding between all parties involved.
- Option 4: The Bedford School Committee has the authority to simply reject the request for any children at this residence to attend Bedford schools.
Before the vote Superintendent of Schools Jon Sills emphasized that any decision would only be pertinent to this particular property, and that this vote would in no way set a precedent for any future cases.
The School Committee voted 3-2-0 in favor of Option 3.
Branson Moss, Bedford’s Town Counsel, was on hand to provide legal advice. An agreement will now be drawn up to ensure future funding and will be presented to the school committee for further approval. In the meantime this property is currently off market.