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Towns unsure whether to support budget

  • Pioneer Valley Regional School

Staff Writer
Published: 4/19/2019 5:16:44 PM
Modified: 4/19/2019 5:16:29 PM

BERNARDSTON — Town officials are unsure whether to support the Pioneer Valley Regional School District’s proposed budget for the 2019-2020 school year, and are meeting to discuss the question Monday at 7 p.m. at the Bernardston Senior Center.

The issue this time is that after the School Committee closed Pearl Rhodes Elementary School, part of the money saved was used to maintain jobs that would have otherwise been cut; whereas the towns had asked that it be used to reduce their payments to the district next year, said Northfield Finance Committee Chairwoman Lois Stearns.

The towns’ options for a response may be limited to recommending against the schools’ budget at their spring annual town meetings, Stearns said. Northfield is no longer taking submissions for its town meeting warrant, so even if Pioneer were to revise its proposal, Northfield would not be able to vote on it.

The selectboards and finance committees of the four towns have been meeting periodically since the summer, in an effort to be more collaborative when it comes to school fiscal policy.

Most recently the town officials met in March, and had planned to meet next in June. This upcoming meeting was scheduled after the School Committee decided last week how to handle the savings from closing Pearl Rhodes, Stearns said.

Two other school-related issues are on the agenda for Monday. In February, Pioneer Superintendent Jon Scagel signed a five-year contract with the district, which some town officials have suggested was overly generous.

Because Pioneer is under partial oversight by the state, at least three of the towns have sent letters the state Department of Education, requesting that it intervene and override the contract. Stearns said she is not aware if any of the letters have been answered.

The last agenda item is to address some uncertainty over whether the district is legally required to hire a school police officer, and what paperwork might be necessary if the school were to not hire one, Stearns said. Superintendent Scagel has said that he has already contacted the state Department of Education, and was advised that a legal waiver is not necessary if the district does not hire a resource officer.

Reach Max Marcus at or 413-772-0261 ex 261.

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