Representatives from Amherst, Pelham, Leverett & Shutesbury met today
Officials from all four towns came together this afternoon at the Regional Middle School trying to work out some sort of compromise so all four towns could start building their budgets.
In order to dissuade Shutesbury from implementing the "The Nuclear Option", whereby their Town Meeting votes down the Regional Assessment Method from the current rolling five year average cost per pupil basis, which would then automatically reverts the Region to the "Statutory Method" based (somewhat) on ability to pay, Finance Director Sean Mangano hatched a compromise.
For this upcoming Fiscal Year stay with the current method for 90% of the budget and the other 10% use the state's Statutory Method but with open space & tax exempt properties removed from the formula.
1st slide: School administrators wanted everyone to play nice
Under this scheme Amherst would stay at around a 2.5% increase next year while both Leverett and Pelham would pay a little more in order for Shutesbury to pay a little less ($25,000).
Superintendent Maria Geryk told them, ""We will do our part in making cuts, adapting to a long term structural deficiency. I'm just hoping we can stay connected and working together."
The meeting did get heated at times with one member pointing out, "There’s always another alternative formula where you will pay less. One town will always be in that position."
At the Four Towns Meeting two weeks ago Shutesbury presented an alternative method that simply reverted back to the Statutory Method, but phased in over the next four years (25% per year).
And they strongly suggested their Town Meeting could vote down the current method if the plan was not adopted. That was met with a storm of sharp criticism from the other towns.
The subject of expanding the Region from the current 7-12 all the way down to PreK through 6th grade did come up, as some members believe it will save money. But if Shutesbury votes no to reopening the Regional Agreement, the process is dead.
One member suggested helping Shutesbury by tweaking the funding formula should be tied to their support for passing Regionalization, even if they as a town do not wish to join the expanded Region.
All four Town Meetings will vote on the expanded Region this spring, and it takes unanimous approval to pass. Two questions will be presented: Should the Regional Agreement be reopened/amended for the sake of Regionalization, and 2) do you wish to join the expanded Region?
It's only the first question that requires unanimous approval, the second question does not.
As long as Amherst, who is 78% of the Region, approves along with at least one other town, the expanded Region is formed. The remaining towns will simply stay on as part of the 7-12 Region.
Complicated? You bet.