Warwick to vote on withdrawal from Pioneer school district at Annual Town Meeting

  • Warwick’s Annual Town Meeting will be held Saturday on the common behind Town Hall, pictured at right. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 7/14/2020 12:54:19 PM

WARWICK — Residents are set to consider withdrawing from the Pioneer Valley Regional School District and passing an omnibus budget of $2 million during Annual Town Meeting on Saturday.

The meeting will start at 1 p.m. on the town common. Town Coordinator David Young said grid lines will be drawn on the ground and attendees are asked to observe one-way aisle markings to abide by social distancing recommendations. Family members may stay together.

“We will try to maintain distancing but depending on attendance this could, without masks, cause risk and unacceptable discomfort,” Young said. “Masks are required.”

Education

While the 19-article warrant sees mostly non-controversial items, according to Young, the final article asks residents to vote on withdrawing Warwick’s membership from the Pioneer Valley Regional School District “as expeditiously as possible.”

Since the Pioneer School Committee’s January vote to close the Warwick Community School, members of the Warwick Selectboard and Warwick Education Committee have discussed wanting to withdraw from the district and either establish their own curriculum or join another neighboring school district, such as Union 73 with Orange, Petersham and Ralph C. Mahar Regional schools. Adam Holloway said the Warwick Education Committee and a group of parents have continued to discuss plans for a homeschooling cooperative that would use the Warwick Community School building.

Finance Committee members anticipate roughly $63,769 in expenses in fiscal year 2021 to keep the building open. This figure is based on a combination of actual estimates and figures pulled from the Pioneer budget for operating the school.

“It is all sought in furtherance of keeping local elementary education,” Young said.

Young said he and members of the Selectboard intend to schedule a meeting with Pioneer Superintendent Jonathan Scagel to negotiate a tuition agreement that would allow Warwick students to continue attending Pioneer at the middle school and high school level, should the town withdraw from the district. While he said he does not know what to expect for discussion pertaining to this vote on Saturday, Young said the Selectboard members were “unanimous in their desire to withdraw from the district.”

It is not likely that an arrangement with another school district will be reached before school resumes in the fall, Young said, and Warwick’s assessment to the Pioneer school district is still included in the fiscal year 2021 budget.

Budget

If approved, the roughly $2 million omnibus budget would represent a 2 percent increase over last fiscal year. The budget includes $234,474 under insurance and benefits, $101,113 for culture and recreation, $390,839 for public works, $165,443 for public safety, $249,458 for general government expenses, $92,051 for the Franklin County Technical School assessment and $800,166 for the Pioneer assessment.

“The PVRSD committee has made several cuts to the FY21 budget and absorbed the usual high school capital project expenses,” reads the Finance Committee’s statement explaining the budget. “There are many unknowns for the upcoming school year, but we can note that the town assessment is noticeably lower than previous years.”

According to the warrant, requested salaries and compensation for elected officials includes: $125 for the town moderator, $1,500 for three assessors, $800 for the tree warden, $600 for three Cemetery Commission members, $1,200 for three Selectboard members, $6,448 for the town clerk and $1,500 for three Board of Health members.

Other articles

Voters will also be asked to transfer $68,908 from free cash to reduce the fiscal year 2021 tax levy. Young said this use of free cash happens each year.

“We’ve done that for the 13 years I’ve been here, and longer than that,” he said.

The warrant also sees articles asking to appropriate $35,000 for the transfer station enterprise fund, and raise $35,000 from departmental receipts. Similarly, another articles asks to appropriate $125,000 to operate the broadband enterprise fund, and provide that $125,000 be raised from departmental receipts.

To view the entirety of the warrant and budget, visit bit.ly/3j0K6TK.

If there is heavy rain Saturday, Young said the meeting will convene just long enough to come to order and then adjourn until the following Saturday, June 25, at 1 p.m.

Zack DeLuca can be reached at zdeluca@recorder.com or 413-930-4579.

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