Towns reduces scholarship, to seek donations
BEACON FALLS — The town hopes that by giving less it can reach more people.
For more than 10 years, the town has given out two $1,000 scholarships to graduating seniors at Woodland Regional High School through the Samuel E. Melbourne Family Memorial Fund.
The town has been giving out more than the trust is currently earning, and the fund has diminished in size over the years.
First Selectman Christopher Bielik said the fund currently has about $7,600 in it. At the current rate, the town would be able to give out $2,000 for three more years and $1,500 four years from now before the funds will be exhausted.
Last week, the Board of Selectmen voted in favor of reducing the scholarships awarded to two $500 scholarships in order to lengthen the life of the trust.
“Five hundred dollars is still a substantial, nice award and it effectively doubles the amount of time we have within the guidelines of the funds we have available to us to support … the scholarships themselves,” Bielik said.
The town has also begun to look at ways it can help replenish the trust.
Bielik said he has been working with Treasurer Michael Krenesky to find a way to solicit donations from residents, including requesting donations towards the fund on tax bills.
“We looked at this very quickly a year ago. I think now is the time to revisit it with our tax collector to see if we can make that happen. It’s a worthwhile thing to support, scholarships for deserving children in the school system we have here,” Bielik said.
Krenesky said the trust, established in 1990 for the benefit of needy or underprivileged students of a public school system, was originally $10,000 and sat untouched for many years. It reached approximately $35,000 before the town ever had a request to use the funds.
“When Woodland High School opened it was an open vehicle sitting there and a decision was made that we start handing out a scholarship from the town,” Krenesky said.
In addition to being used for scholarships the trust can be used to help offset children’s medical bills, Krenseky said. However, it has not been used that way in years.
Krenesky said the last time the town gave money out of the trust other than scholarships was about six years ago. The town gave approximately $1,000 based to help pay medical bills for a family with an ill child.
“I know there are plenty in the community that would be able to take advantage of it today. I don’t think we advertise it well enough that anyone knows that it’s there,” Krenesky said.
Krenesky was also concerned that, if requests did start coming in, the town doesn’t have a system in place to choose who will receive the money.
Bielik believes asking residents to donate to a trust that helps other residents will yield results. Bielik said, in the past, residents have shown they are very generous when it comes to helping those in need.
“This is just another mechanism that is available to people where we don’t necessarily need to pass the hat or cook pasta or something like that. All they need to do is recognize a need and, if we believe in it strong enough, we can choose to award out of it,” Bielik said.