August 19, 2019

Tentative Date Set for Proposition 2 and a Half Override Vote

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Selectmen have set September 17 as a tentative date for a Proposition 2 and a half override vote. The school department is seeking an additional $558, 797.

“We’re hoping it’s not necessary,” said selectmen chairman Gerry Schwall Monday.

Schwall explained the board had a budget “agreement in place” with the Dighton-Rehoboth Regional school committee. The boards met last week and have reached a compromise. Details of the agreement were not revealed.

“We’re committed to making it work,” Schwall noted.

However, the school committee needs to approve the agreement at their meeting on Wednesday. An executive session will be held prior to the meeting.

School committee chairperson Katherine Cooper and vice-chair Rachel Dingus agreed with selectmen it’s time to work out a solution to the funding crisis.

Dingus said it was a matter of “understanding the schools’ needs and the towns’ needs and balancing both of those aspects.”

Selectman Mike Costello believes the selectmen and school committee will have a more cooperative relationship going forward, judging from the productivity of their recent meeting.

“We can work together,” Costello said. “There doesn’t have to be this disconnect.”

Costello will serve as the board liaison to the school committee and pledge to maintain better communications as they begin their discussions for the 2021 budget. He intends to keep the selectmen informed about the school budget in the hope the turmoil of the last few months will not be repeated next year.

“We will know what’s going on throughout the course of the year, so (when town meeting is held), we will be united as one and then the budget goes through a normal process,” Costello added.

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 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.

The school committee voted on July 18 to proceed with scheduling the district wide meeting – otherwise known as a “tent” meeting concurrently with the pending override vote. The school committee can vote to reduce their assessment to match what the town has voted.

If the district-wide meeting fails to approve a school budget, the state’s department of education would assume operational control on December 1.

If the override is approved, voters will pay an additional $120 per year in taxes.

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