Towns to wait until after town meetings to vote on Pioneer budget

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Staff Writer
Published: 4/24/2019 5:39:23 PM

BERNARDSTON — Because of complications from the closure of Leyden’s Pearl Rhodes Elementary School, the four towns of the Pioneer Valley Regional School District expect to wait until after their Annual Town Meetings to vote on the school district’s proposed budget for the 2019-2020 year.

Part of the the problem is that the budget figures are still changing, as the School Committee re-evaluates what the district’s needs will be with one less elementary school.

The other part is that the decision to close Pearl Rhodes has to be OK’d by the state Department of Education to make it final, due to a legal deal Pioneer made in exchange for financial help from the state. The Department of Education has not reviewed the decision yet.

Meanwhile, three of the four Annual Town Meetings are the week of May 6; and the fourth, Leyden’s, is May 18. Town officials and School Committee members don’t expect this to be sorted out by then.

So town selectboards and finance committees agreed to ask their town meeting voters to defer on the school budget. Then, the four towns will take it up again June 17, by which time the Department of Education will have made its decision on closing Pearl Rhodes, and the School Committee will have fully revised its budget.

The specific legal mechanisms for the plan will vary from town to town because each one handles the budget slightly differently. But all were confident that the plan would be legally possible.

The currently proposed budget, which does not reflect Pearl Rhodes’ closure, is $14,272, 210. The portion of that budget funded by the towns is 1.65 percent higher than this year. School Committee members and school administrators have emphasized that this is an unusually low increase.

School Budget Subcommittee Chairman Mike Townsley was confident that any revisions would result in even lower costs to the towns.

Reach Max Marcus at mmarcus@recorder.com or 413-772-0261 ex 261.




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