December 5, 2019

Dighton-Rehoboth School Budget in Limbo

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The funding crisis which has engulfed the Dighton-Rehoboth Regional school budget is not over yet but it is closer to a resolution. The school committee “unanimously” supported a $19.3 million assessment for Rehoboth, according to chairperson Katherine Cooper. That figure matches the Board of Selectmen's requested number.  The vote was taken during an executive session held Wednesday at Dighton-Rehoboth Regional High School.

In a compromise agreement with the board of selectmen, the school committee agreed to make $204,000 in reductions to their 2020 budget. Therefore, the FY19 to FY20 budget increase is now $373,000 which is a 0.86% budget increase, rather than 1.32%. The total budget is now $43,972,769 for the Dighton Rehoboth School District.  For months, the school department had been seeking an additional $558, 797.

Cooper also said the commissioner of education is being asked to set an increased 1/12th budget to match this agreed budget figure for the school district. “If that doesn’t happen, there will be reduced funds available until the board of selectmen schedule and hold a town meeting, where voters will agree to minor cuts in the town budget and the use of additional revenue sources,” Cooper continued. “The passage of a positive vote at town meeting is required to set the school’s budget. If a voted budget is not obtained, the School Committee could then hold a district wide meeting or wait for the department of education to assume control of the school budget on December 1.”

As for what will be removed from the school budget, Cooper noted details will be revealed at the August 13 meeting. There will be no cuts in personnel, Cooper said. Selectmen had set September 17 as a tentative date for a Proposition 2 and a half override vote. Voters approved the special election at the July 16 town meeting. Cooper believes there was “no certainty an override would pass.” “There’s no good choice here,” Cooper added.

All sports programs are likely to be restored, although no one from the school committee could make a guarantee to parents and students in attendance at the meeting. “The biggest concern is to get coaches coaching and players on the field,” said Superintendent Anthony Azar.

“We do not know our budget with 100 percent certainty, said vice-chairperson Rachel Dingus. “Everything changes day by day. We have a Plan A, a Plan B, a Plan C, and a Plan D. We’re looking for the quickest solution. We’re trying not to drag this out.”

Committee member George Solas believes the ongoing turmoil regarding the school budget has been beneficial. “We’re a much stronger school committee,” Solas said, adding there had been “a lot of anger and a lot of frustration” expressed by town residents about the budget dilemma.

Voters at the May 28 town meeting had rejected the school committee’s assessment for 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 school committee opted to disregard the town meeting vote and continued to push for more funding, which prompted officials to hold a special town meeting in July. The town approved an override of Proposition 2 and a ½ in 2018 to provide an additional $2.1 million for the school budget.

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