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Rejoining Mohawk would save Rowe money

BUCKLAND — If Rowe were a Grade 7 through 12 member of the Mohawk Trail Regional School District, the town would have saved about $42,340 this year while other Mohawk member towns would have collectively paid about $13,208 more.

Although Rowe and Mohawk aren’t talking about reuniting, some town officials from the Mohawk Municipal Advisory Committee want to review the 30-year-old regional agreement, which spells out Rowe’s tuition.

In the early 1980s, Rowe withdrew from Mohawk so that the district could be eligible for more state aid. In return for withdrawing, and losing a vote on the school board, Rowe was given a tuition discount of almost 10 percent below Mohawk’s per-pupil cost.

But a consultant and education finance specialist recently told Mohawk school and town officials that Rowe’s tuition calculation is too low — mainly because state aid sent to Mohawk for member towns has artificially reduced the actual per-pupil cost on which Rowe’s tuition is based. Also, although Rowe has made donations to Mohawk over the years, Rowe does not pay for Mohawk’s capital costs, such as the recent roof and window replacement.

At the Nov. 29 meeting, in which Rowe’s tuition was discussed, Rowe School Committee member Lisa Danek Burke said she would like to see cost projections for Rowe, if the town were to become a Grade 7 through 12 member town, as are Charlemont and Hawley.

Now that the information has been provided, Mohawk Chairman Robert Aeschback says it’s up to Mohawk member towns to initiate any possible revision of the regional agreement. To change the agreement, however, would require approval at annual town meetings by all eight Mohawk member towns.

The projected costs, if Rowe were a member town, were calculated by school Business Administrator Joanne Blier. When asked if Rowe’s wealthy tax base from the Bear Swamp hydroelectric facility would reduce Mohawk’s state aid, Blier said state education officials don’t anticipate a negative impact.

Under this year’s agreement, Rowe is paying $261,900 in tuition and $48,554 for Mohawk transportation. However, Rowe’s Mohawk transportation does qualify for regional transportation aid. If Rowe, like the Hawlemont Regional School district, had been a Grade 7 through 12 member, Rowe would have a vote on the Mohawk school committee and its transportation costs would have been only $10,577, because of regional transportation reimbursement.

Also, Rowe’s $36,000 Chapter 70 aid for secondary education would go directly to Mohawk, along with Chapter 70 aid for the other member towns.

If Rowe were a part of the Mohawk district, assessments for the Hawlemont towns, Charlemont and Hawley, would drop $2,880 and $447 respectively. However, all other member towns’ assessments would go up between $1,181 and $3,850, according to Blier’s projections.

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