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Mohawk won’t use state bus aid to cut this year’s assessments

  • Busses wiat for the new school years to start on Rt 2 in Shelburne.  Recorder/Paul Franz
  • Mohawk buses wait fo rthe school year to begin in Shelburne.  Recorder/Paul Franz

BUCKLAND — Mohawk Trail Regional School Committee Chairman Robert Aeschback says the school board can’t reduce this year’s town assessments for the Mohawk school district, just because the state provided more aid than anticipated for busing this school year.

But if the district gets the full 90 percent reimbursement designated by the state budget, he said, a surplus might be used to reduce towns’ transportation costs next school year.

Colrain, Buckland and Shelburne selectmen had sent letters to the superintendent, asking if their costs would be reduced this academic year, since the state allocated roughly twice as much money for regional transportation than had been projected last February, when the school budget was drafted.

Also, Ashfield Finance Committee Chairman Ted Murray had sent a letter, on his town’s behalf, saying he agreed that “any windfall” beyond the state aid projected in the budget should be returned to member towns.”

Aeschback said the district receives the first half of this year’s bus reimbursement in January and the second half in June, “subject to whether the governor is making any (state aid) cuts.”

Aeschback said it’s possible the full 90 percent won’t be released if state revenues drop below projections.

“We can’t return — now — money we haven’t received,” he said. “If the money comes in at 90 percent, we cannot spend that amount above what we have budgeted,” and the surplus would go into the district’s Excess-and-Deficiency account, which is equivalent to a “general fund” or rainy-day fund. If the money exceeds what the school district is allowed by law to keep in the E & D fund, “we could give it back to the towns, or we could use it to lower bus transportation for next year.”

Colrain School Committee member Nina Martin-Anzuoni said she would like the district to guarantee the towns that, if the district gets full funding, it will either use the money to reduce next year’s transportation costs or give them money back.

The issue was discussed at the Aug. 13 school board meeting. Mohawk’s transportation costs were projected at $1.09 million for the coming school year, with about $450,000 (41 percent) estimated to come from state Chapter 71 aid. Ninety percent would mean about $980,000 in reimbursement.

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