December 14, 2019

Rehoboth to Hold Special Election for School Funding

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For the second year in a row, voters will be heading to the ballot box to decide on an override of Proposition 2 and a ½ in order to provide additional funding for the Dighton-Rehoboth regional school budget. The school department is seeking an additional $558, 797.

Over 1000 voters packed the Dighton-Rehoboth Regional High School Tuesday. The school’s auditorium was filled to capacity, so voters and observers were situated in the gymnasium where they could watch the meeting on a giant screen.

The vote was 838 in favor, with 187 opposed. A two-thirds vote was needed for passage.

Voters at the May 28 town meeting had rejected the school committee’s assessment to Rehoboth in favor of the finance committee’s recommendation of $18.9 million. That amount is slightly over $1 million more than last year and $3.4 million more than the town is required to pay under the state minimum net school spending mandate. The town approved an override of Proposition 2 and a ½ in 2018 to provide an additional $2.1 million for the school budget.

Selectmen chairman Gerry Schwall had warned voters about using funds from the town’s stabilization account to fund the school budget. If the override were to be rejected by voters, the school committee could either accept the amount of money appropriated or call a special “tent meeting.” Schwall noted a “tent meeting” is when “the residents of one town attempt to circumvent the will of the voters of another town.” If the override is approved, voters will pay an additional $120 per year in taxes. “I really believe it’s a very very good thing,” Schwall said after the vote was held. “Everyone now in the town regardless of what side of the issue you’re on, will have the opportunity to cast a ballot vote and have their vote counted,” Schwall said.

“I think now the voice of the people has spoken,” said selectman Michael Costello, who believes a clear message has been sent to the school committee. “I think some financial responsibility needs to come from the district,” Costello noted. “I plan on attending a lot of their financial reviews (next year) so we’re more transparent and open.”

One town resident, who declined to give his name, was pleased that the entire town will get to decide the school budget. “Let the taxpayers vote,” said the man, who pledged to reject the override when the special election is held.

The board of selectmen had warned of “drastic” cuts to the town budget if the additional school funding was approved without the contingency of another Proposition 2 and a half override. A state takeover of the  town's operational budget may occur if the school budget is not approved before December 1.

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Michael P. Deignan

Two minor corrections to this story:

The motion passed 838 to 187. A majority vote, not a 2/3rds vote, was required to pass the motion. A 2/3rds vote was required to "call the question" earlier in the meeting.

In the final paragraph, "A state takeover" of the town's operational budget" is incorrect. If there is no budget approved for the regional district by December 1st, the state steps in and assumes financial control of the Regional School District... NOT the town.

Michael P. Deignan

Chairman

Rehoboth Finance Committee

Wednesday, July 17
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