Regional 7-12 Public schools include Amherst, Leverett, Pelham and Shutesbury
A dozen and a half community leaders from the four town Region met this Friday evening for an hour and half trying to come to a compromise they all could sell to their respective town meetings concerning the $19,539,329 chunk of the school budget paid for using the rolling five year average per student cost Regional Assessment method.
Select Board, Finance & School Committee member (shy of a quorum of course) Administrators from all 4 towns
Shutesbury came to the meeting still wanting to partially switch back to the state statutory method for 25% of the that assessment, while Amherst, Leverett and Pelham thought they were being more than fair by supporting a 10% switch that would benefit only Shutesbury.
Since the per student cost method currently used is an alternative method it requires unanimous support of all four towns to pass, and has been used since 2008. And the compromise of using "ability to pay" statutory method for 10% of the budget (or Shutesbury's requested 25%) would still require unanimous approval of all four towns.
A single no vote to the assessment method reverts the budget back to the state statutory method and would guarantee more cuts to a budget already cut to the bone.
Outgoing Amherst Finance Director Sandy Pooler told the group in a few days this would not be his problem so he can speak freely, which he did (supporting the 10% solution) while looking over at the Shutesbury representatives:
"Insisting we get to that ultimate goal (25%) is fraught with danger. We need it so nobody is hurt in the short run and then to keep grappling with the problem. A solution where nobody gets hurt is worth a lot. The value of goodwill is enormously important. We simply can’t have people leaving the room thinking they’ve been hurt."
Four Shutesbury reps left the room to caucus among themselves after it became clear the other three towns would not budge from the 10% offer. They returned ten minutes later with a counter compromise of 15%.
That did not go over well. At all.
Because at that amount of a shift both Leverett and Pelham said they would have to cut their elementary budget to come up with the extra money for the Region.
Shutesbury reps were adamant that 15% was their "bottom, bottom, bottom line," and now they would have to go back to their full Select Board and Finance Committee to report the impasse and seek advise.
The Regional School Committee passes a budget and the assessment method with a simple majority vote of the nine members, but Town Meeting is the final authority for both the assessement method (unanimous vote of all four) and then the budget itself (three out of four required to pass).
Maria Geryk concluded the meeting saying she would recommend to the Regional School Committee the 10% hybrid alternative method three of the four towns supported and simply hope that Shutesbury voters will support it at their Town Meeting.
10% of a loaf is better than chaos.
Good story that captures some of the angst of small town budget issue https://t.co/9hzpmSjmv9— JayLeonard (@JayLeonard) January 9, 2016