Voters Will Need to Approve Town Budget Cuts
Budget cuts will need to be made at the town level in order to compensate for an additional $330,000 in funding for the Dighton-Rehoboth Regional School District. Voters will be asked to approve the reductions at the fall town meeting scheduled for October 29.
All sports programs will be reinstated for the Dighton-Rehoboth Regional schools for the fall. In a compromise agreement with the board of selectmen, the school committee agreed to make $204,000 in reductions to their 2020 budget. As a result, 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 $45, 096, 223 for the Dighton Rehoboth School District.
School Committee chairperson Katherine Cooper said the commissioner of education agreed to set an increased 1/12th budget to match this agreed budget figure for the school district. “This adjusted 1/12 budget secures sports and activities for the beginning of the school year and brings back the four administrator positions,” Cooper said.
The school committee also agreed to postpone a planned district-wide meeting until after the Rehoboth town meeting is held. The school committee approved a $19.3 million assessment for Rehoboth. That figure matches the Board of Selectmen's requested number.
The school department has a positive outlook and believes the financial crisis is over. “We’re moving in the right direction with Rehoboth,” said committee vice-chairperson Rachel Dingus. “We’re working together as one committee, as two towns, one district.”
Cooper warned of the consequences if the budget cuts aren’t approved at the fall town meeting. “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.”
On August 19, selectmen chairman Gerry Schwall announced an override of Proposition 2 and a half was not going to happen and neither will a district-wide meeting. 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. For months, the school department had been seeking an additional $558, 797. 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.
Schwall said the town’s finances are healthier than they were a few months ago.
Schwall explained there was an increase in local aid. Tax revenues were also higher than expected. Town projects which had been set to go forward will be placed on the back burner for now, according to Schwall.
Selectman Skip Vadnais believes some changes need to be made to the regional agreement, which Vadnais called “outdated” and “unfair” to Rehoboth. “We have some momentum on our side to forge a resolution which will be fair and equitable for both towns,” Schwall said.
Selectmen vow to maintain more oversight of the school budget for next year so that there won’t be a repeat of this year’s protracted fight. Schwall said School Superintendent Anthony Azar will be invited to attend the board’s meetings for the next budget cycle. “At the end of the day, we need to move forward,” Schwall added.