Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Equitable Vs Fair

Officials from all 4 towns:  Amherst, Leverett, Pelham, Shutesbury

The Regional Assessment Working Group -- yet another subcommittee formed by the Amherst Pelham Regional School Committee -- met yesterday for the first time to deliberate their charge:  "Analyze historical assessments, investigate assessment alternatives, and make a recommendation of an assessment method going forward."

The "working group" is facilitated by Sean Mangano who stepped into the well worn shoes of former Finance Director Robert Detweiler after he mysteriously disappeared six months ago. 

School spending accounts for the lions share of municipal budgets in all four towns.  The current 50+ year old  Region consists of the Middle and High School but the Regional School Committee also formed a committee almost three years ago to discuss and plan for regionalization at the pre-K through six grade as well.

The criteria for the working group is to come up with a finance method that is fair, predictable, affordable, easy to explain to the voters and one that avoids budget buster spikes for individual towns.  Or what one member referred to as "No nukes."
Obviously the equitable thing is for all four towns to pay the same cost per student.  Currently the assessment method takes that into consideration but is also based on a "five year rolling average."  And that seems to generate "a hit" to individual towns about once every five years.

Discussion centered around what is fair vs equitable, or ... how do you provide a "circuit breaker" or "cap" to help  any one overburdened town deal with what could be a budget buster?

Amherst Finance Director Sandy Pooler, obviously a numbers guy, wondered how you define "ability to pay?"  He seemed to  approve of the common sense policy of everybody paying the same cost per student, thinking it might better "resonate" with voters.

The group will meet every other week and expect to have a recommendation for the Amherst Regional School Committee sometime in September.  

Approval will require a simple majority vote by the RSC and then all four Town Meetings must endorse the new assessment method; although after that only three-out-of-four approvals will be required to pass the  Regional Budget.

(left to rt) Maria Geryk, Kay Moran, Alisa Brewer, Bernie Kubiak, Andy Steinberg


Anonymous said...

Be careful Larry. If you talk about circuit breakers you may have to talk about master/slave scenarios and caps could mean guns and then you might be treading in racist terms.

Larry Kelley said...

As General McAuliffe would say, "Nuts!"

Oh yeah, never mind.

Anonymous said...

The best way to get equitable and fair is to first get control on the per student cost. It has been growing for over a decade at a rate around 3 times inflation. Superintendent Geryk did not start this out of control growth, but she has not been able to find solutions to stop it.

First we need to find a replacement for Rob D. with a really strong back bone who can tell the 4 towns and the teachers union what they don't want to hear. Then we need the administration to implement very unpopular cost cutting.

Once this is done a per student basis with a 5 year rolling average will work out just fine.

Dr. Ed said...

Each town paying the same price per student is only equitable if each student's parent pays the same amount in property taxes, regardless of valuation.

This is like taking the Amherst budget and dividing it by the number of residents -- everyone having to pay the same amount of money regardless of what one owns, or what one's income is.

The larger problem is the inequity of having one town with a large number of students residing in apartment complexes while the other three towns don't even have such low-taxable-value housing. Amherst isn't able to tax the housing of it's children as the other three towns can.

And this in an arrangement which violates the "one voter, one vote"
rule of Baker v. Carr?

Anonymous said...

Looks like a real nail biter

Anonymous said...

Maybe what us equitable and fair is the state assessment formula since Amherst pays 100s of thousands more each year under the alternative assessment method

Larry Kelley said...

I think at the moment the alternative method is to our benefit.

Shutesbury was whining about it last spring.

Anonymous said...

Just this past year. Ask Pooler.

Chump change for chumps said...

Who knew

that your ----> $$$ <----

could be so friggan

~finger~ ~licking~ ~good~?


-Squeaky Squeaks

p.s. Oh go on, kiss it good-bye