G-M municipal advisory panel defends its work
MONTAGUE — Michael Naughton of the municipal advisory panel to Gill-Montague School District recently offered a defense of the controversial group’s work and role in the district’s financial planning.
Reading from a statement he said was endorsed by the other members, Naughton said he was surprised to hear interim Superintendent Mark Prince say at the Nov. 27 School Committee meeting that the work of the advisory panel is complete and asked Prince to reconsider working with the group.
The “technical panel” produced the “Table B” financial scenario on which the 2010 budget compact between the towns and the school district is based.
That agreement is often credited with the end to four years of budget deadlock.
Naughton said the panel developed a plan that seemed workable, put it forward and the towns, district, education department and legislators agreed to the compact establishing the table as the district’s long-term plan for fiscal stability, Naughton said.
In the scenario described by the original Table B, the member towns and state agreed to try to give the school district about 3 percent more each year for five years, with the district agreeing to try to present a level-funded budget for the following year and then hold to a 2.5 percent increase for the next four.
A version of the table revised this spring reflects last year’s less-than-anticipated increase in the district budget and holds to the 2.5 percent increase for the coming school year.
Naughton said the table was intended to be revised to reflect changing reality, and must be revised now that state aid seems likely to remain flat after only slight increases for two years.
“This again is why we feel the work of the technical panel is not complete,” Naughton said. “We believe that the Table B updating and analysis supplied by the technical panel can help the towns, the district and state officials in their work toward a revised plan for sustainability.”
With Prince not participating, Naughton said the panel is comprised of himself, former school committee member Jeffrey Singleton and Allen Tupper Brown of the Gill Finance Committee. Naughton is himself a member of the Montague Finance Committee.
School Committee members Marjorie Levenson and Sandra Brown asked Prince to consider going to the tech panel’s meetings.
Prince repeated his statement that he is willing to meet with any citizens’ organization that wants to come forward with suggestions but intends to work directly with the finance committees of both towns.
“I don’t have legal authority to plan a budget with the tech panel,” Prince said.
Brown said working with individual finance committees is not the same as working with the tech panel,
School committee member Michael Langknecht said the panel had an important role but never actually worked on building the budget, instead offering fiscal planning and strategy, as Prince said he was open to hearing.
The meeting was not shown live on the community cable network, as it usually is.
You can reach Chris Curtis at:
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