Heath voters to consider charter changes outlining school costs

For the Recorder
Published: 5/5/2022 12:25:50 PM
Modified: 5/5/2022 12:24:19 PM

HEATH — Annual Town Meeting voters will be asked to adopt school district charter changes that spell out how Heath is to share costs for its grade-school students at Colrain Central School.

The meeting will be held Saturday at 9 a.m. in the former Heath Elementary School at 18 Jacobs Road.

New charter amendments, which all the Mohawk Trail Regional School District towns are to vote on at their respective Town Meetings, include the following:

■Heath and Colrain are to share capital costs for improvements made to Colrain Central School based on the ratio of the number of students each town sends to the school over the five most recent years.

■Heath is now solely responsible for any outstanding debt payments associated with the former Heath school.

■Heath and Colrain are responsible for any repayment of money borrowed to make Colrain Central School building improvements by the Mohawk Trail Regional School District, with each town paying in proportion to their five-year ratio of student enrollment.

In a bill to be voted on by all Mohawk Trail member towns, the district is asking to borrow up to $278,400 for work at Colrain Central School, which would include masonry repairs and repointing, and rebuilding the parking areas and walkways. Approval of this bill is recommended by the Finance Committee.

However, according to the printed warrant, the Finance Committee does not recommend accepting Mohawk Trail’s proposed $992,662 operating assessment. The vote opposing it was 3 to 1, with one abstention. The assessment represents a 7.2% increase for this town. Heath’s enrollment is 47 children at Colrain Central and 23 students in grades seven through 12 at Mohawk Trail Regional School.

Town and school officials are still discussing an enrollment error that resulted in a too-low school assessment last year, when Heath transitioned from Hawlemont Regional School to Colrain Central. According to Superintendent Sheryl Stanton, Heath’s enrollment was undercounted by 34 students. She said school officials noticed a student decrease, but thought it could have been a result of students missing school because of COVID-19 concerns. Stanton said the new assessment may seem very high because it’s based on the accurate, higher student enrollment numbers.

The 2023 fiscal year budget request of $1.5 million represents a $78,564 increase over this year’s $1.4 million spending plan. The largest spending increase is for a $69,444 debt repayment for broadband, plus an additional $4,978 in interest. Also, the cost of gas and oil for the Highway Department is expected to increase by $8,000 — up from $32,000 to $40,000. A new salary line of $6,656 was added for a part-time clerk who will serve the planning, health and zoning boards.

The town will also vote to establish an Internet Technology Stabilization Fund, which requires a two-thirds vote.

Residents may view the full warrant at bit.ly/3yhCBln.


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