December 7, 2019

School Committee Will Request Funding from State

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The Dighton-Rehoboth Cchool Committee will be appealing to the state for more funding, just weeks before a state takeover of the school district.

School Committee Chairperson Katherine Cooper said a letter was going to be sent to the state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE).
“Accepting a negative 1% budget and making an additional $700,000 in cuts to the School District is not an option,” Cooper said Wednesday. We have already reduced our initial budget requests over $900,000 to no avail. We are currently at a 0.66% budget request, which is a $289,000 increase for both Dighton and Rehoboth on a $44 Million budget.”

“The Finance Committee recommended a $614,000 increase in funding for Rehoboth with $613,000 being the state mandated increase,” Cooper continued. “Schools cannot function at minimum and still have art, music, and sports.”

The Rehoboth Board of Selectmen had worked out a compromise agreement with the School Committee in the hope of resolving the budget turmoil. In exchange for giving the School Department an additional $330,000 for the 2020 budget, selectmen had proposed $214,000 in cuts to town departments.

That warrant article was rejected by voters at the October 29 town meeting, which prompted the School Committee to hold the district-wide “Tent” meeting for the two towns. The November 2 tent meeting was cancelled due to an incorrectly worded warrant.

In a November 4 letter to School Superintendent Anthony Azar, Cooper, Rehoboth Selectmen Chairman Gerry Schwall, and Dighton Selectmen Chairman Kenneth Pacheco, DESE’s Associate Commissioner Jay Sullivan said if a budget is not accepted before December 1, DESE “shall establish a budget for the year and shall assume fiscal oversight of the district.”

“Once the department sets the final district budget for the year, the Treasurer of the Regional School District must calculate and certify to the member municipalities their respective assessments based on the statutory method,” Sullivan wrote. “The member communities will be obligated to appropriate their respective assessments based on this budget and make payments to the regional school district consistent with the payment schedule outlined in the regional school district agreement. This budget and the department’s fiscal oversight will remain in place until the end of the fiscal year or until the member towns have approved a budget for the subsequent fiscal year, whichever is later. It is important to note that this budget may be different than the interim “1/12th budget” under which the district is currently operating.”

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