John Musante bottom left, School Superintendent Maria Geryk right, Sean Mangano standing (Rob Detweiler's, err, replacement)
Amherst Town Manager John Musante made it perfectly clear which method of financing he prefers to fund the Regional Schools next Fiscal Year at the Four Town Meeting of the Regional Schools Saturday morning.
The four member towns -- Amherst, Leverett, Pelham and Shutesbury -- use their own modified system (more complicated than the IRS tax code) based on a rolling average, called the Regional Agreement Method.
And every year -- because of a "five year rolling average" -- one of the four towns seems to pay a little more. This year it's Shutesbury's turn.
The state recommends their own Statutory Method, also very complicated, but with less of a variation every few years. Using the Regional Agreement Method, next year Amherst would pay $14,541,118 of the total $18,834,753 Regional budget (77%), an increase of $382,288 or 2.7% over last year.
If however the Region switches to the Statutory Method of funding, Amherst would pay $14,682,553 of the total $18,834,753 Regional Budget. An increase of $523,723 or 4.1% over last year. Musante pointed out the difference between those two dollar amounts is $141,435, but as a percentage is a whopping 33% increase.
The problem is Shutesbury is complaining (as they often do) about their 6.3% increase under the usual Regional Agreement Method. Should their Town Meeting reject the appropriation that would scuttle the entire Regional Budget. In other words it requires a unanimous vote of all four towns.
Whereas if the four town Region uses the state approved Statutory Method one town can vote no and the budget still passes. In other words the vote does not have to be unanimous.
Shutesbury has already played the spoiler by pulling out of the proposed expansion of the Region all the way down to kindergarten from the current 7-12 Region. Shutesbury voted not to join the proposed expanded Region but wishes to stay in the grades 7-12 Region but possibly share the same Superintendent for their elementary school.
Although at the four town meeting yesterday one Amherst official voiced the opinion "you are either in or out" of the new Region, and no special allowances should be made for non believers.