March 14, 2019
On March 13, the school committee unanimously passed several important items that will have an impact on this year’s annual town meetings. The first was the 2019-2020 budget totaling $16,569,437 that essentially maintains our current services while adding the opportunity to begin a new vocational program in early childhood education. The committee also voted to assess the towns under the alternative assessment method. This means that the cost to each town is 1.97% above the amount each town was obligated to pay this year.
The fact that these were unanimous votes, and that town officials present for the last several meetings have been supportive of both the overall budget and of using the alternative assessment method, speaks volumes to the collaborative process used to develop next year’s budget. I am thankful for the school committee members, town officials, and school personnel that worked together to provide us with a budget that we hope will pass muster at each town meeting.
The other vote that impacts towns directly was for accepting the revisions to the regional agreement, and moving them forward for town votes. If the towns pass these changes, and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education approve them, they will be implemented in July of 2020. The changes to the regional agreement have been shared with town officials as we moved through the process and will shortly be posted to the district’s website for everyone to review.
Proposed changes to the regional agreement will clean up some language, update the agreement to comply with changes in the law, and eliminate some old language. The number of school committee representatives from each town and the length of their terms would not change, nor would the fact that each town elects their own representatives. What will change is that each town has a vote proportional to the number of constituents and that vote is then split between their school committee representatives. To match this, quorum language was added to ensure that there will be both a majority of towns, and a majority of votes, at a meeting in order to conduct business. This should not substantially change the operation of the school committee and would not have changed any vote by the school committee over the past decade, as most items pass by a wide margin or even unanimously.
The facilitated discussion group, tasked by the school committee to recommend changes to the regional agreement, will be hosting a meeting open to all town officials on March 28, beginning at 6:30 at the main complex to review the suggested changes, answer questions and address concerns. I am confident that, given the representation from the six towns over the many months of discussion focused on updating the regional agreement, we’ve done a good job of addressing many issues and that town officials involved in the process can adequately answer questions and address concerns for their fellow officials.
Despite the long and crazy winter, it is somewhat surprising to know that town annual town meetings are just around the corner. Knowing that, we continue to share information for anyone who wants to be informed about school issues prior to attending their annual town meeting.