Superintendent: New Butler Playground 'Fully Funded'

Large donations from two well-known residents spur public/private effort to restore play space.

After spending 10 minutes reviewing the fundraising efforts to restore a playground where seven months previous the Waverley neighborhood lost one of its few play spaces, Belmont School Superintendent Dr. Thomas Kingston made an announcement that everyone was waiting to hear.

"The new Butler School Playground is now fully funded," said Kingston.

But for a few seconds, the committee member and those in attendance didn't know how to react. Then came the anticipated round of cheers.

"I was waiting for that applause," said Kingston.

In fact, in less than a year, the effort to construct a new playground on the site condemned for safety concerns by the school department in November is now running a surplus of more than $14,000 over the anticipated costs.

Kingston's proclamation apparently ends for now questions on and the to raise the funds to restore a public amenity.

But while the announcement was made last night, Tuesday, May 22, the final piece in the financial jigsaw was laid on Monday night when a Selectman committed his resources to the effort.

The week previous, after on the third night of Town Meeting, the selectmen said they would take the lead on the measure.

At their Monday meeting, School Committee Chairwoman Laurie Graham told the board that while funds had been raised to complete the first phase of construction – just under $125,000 to prepare the site, purchasing the play structure and lay a rubber safety surface – the account was $38,000 short to compete the project's second phase, which includes fencing, landscaping and amenities,

Lead by Jones, the board sought to move an additional $50,000 on the last day of the annual Town Meeting on May 29 to ensure completion of final phase. But there were no appropriation articles left in the final half-dozen waiting to be debated in which the board could amend.

Saying "the Butler School community deserved to know, with certainty, that the Playground would be completed,” Jones pledged to contribute the additional funds for phase two.

The board also committed to following up in the fall at the annual Special Town Meeting to ensure that the Butler playground had the funds to be completed.

The finances of the new Butler Playground Gifts of $1,000 or more  
$143,000 Gifts of less than $1,000 $11,530

Town Meeting Transfer

from Capital Budget


School Department

Operating Expenditures (FY 12) 

$9,000 Total of all receipts and pledges 

Estimated full project cost

(including Phase I and II)


Surplus/Loss (surplus to be used as a contingency)


Jones' contribution was nearly matched by two donations from Graham Allison and his wife, Elizabeth, which combined makes up more than 40 percent of the projects $168,000 cost.

The successful private/public partnership at the Butler Playground could be used as a model in future efforts by the town to secure the revenue for projects with great appeal.

But for now, the new playground is an example of what a committed group of people can do when faced with a challenge, said Kevin Cunningham of the School Committee.

Donors contributing and pledging $1,000 or more:

Ralph Jones $38,000 Butler Extended Day Program $25,000 Graham Allison $25,000 Butler PTA pledge $24,000 Belmont Savings Bank Foundation $10,000 Elizabeth and Graham Allison $10,000 Cambridge Savings Bank Foundation $5,000 Watertown Savings Bank $2,500 Jianjian Wang $1,500 Michael Smith and Zhiping Yao $1,000 The Hoerle Foundation $1,000 Total of gifts more than $1,000 $143,000
Progress May 23, 2012 at 04:58 PM
Not sure $28k in public funds out of a total capital raise of $183k qualifies this as a public/private partnership. This was truly a monumental effort by many individuals and businesses in the private sector.
Andy Rojas May 23, 2012 at 07:00 PM
Ralph Jones and Liz & Graham Allison have stepped up and very generously contributed to complete this important playground. They and all other contributors deserve our community's thanks and admiration. Really powerful.
David Powelstock May 24, 2012 at 12:25 AM
Thanks to Ralph and the Allisons for their tremendous generosity! I also agree with "Progress" that this was more of a PRIVATE/public funding effort. Public playgrounds are too important to the community to be left to the kindness of private donors, at least to *this* extent. It seems pretty clear that neither BPS nor the School Committee nor the town wanted to set a precedent for public funding of playgrounds. That's pretty weak leadership, quite frankly. The playground committee did a tremendous job getting us to this point--they raised almost $110k, I believe. And let us not forget Town Meeting members who, in the best tradition of Belmont civic-mindedness, made a clear statement to the BoS and others that in this case the priorities established through the budget process were not in line with the public opinion. Kudos to all who contributed time, effort and cash (in denominations large and small)! The kids will get their playground!
Jen Palmer May 24, 2012 at 01:48 AM
WoW!!! Great effort, and thank you to the generosity of all.


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