Gateway board to send new budget to towns

CHESTER – The Gateway School Committee, meeting on the road Wednesday evening in the Chester Elementary School, voted to send basically the same budget approved in March back to the towns, with amendments including line-item transfers and slightly revised town assessments.
Four of the six towns in the Gateway region have previously defeated the budget twice at town meetings.
Gateway Regional Superintendent Dr. David Hopson said at the start of the discussion that he had received a call this week from Rep. Stephen Kulik regarding the progress of the state’s supplemental budget, which Gateway hopes will contain promised mitigation funds of $630,000 to offset the cost of Worthington’s withdrawal from the district, and that will reduce town assessments. Kulik told Hopson that he expects the Senate to vote this week on the supplemental budget, which passed the House last week. After the Senate vote, it will go to the Governor to sign.
“Who knows how long he’ll take,” Hopson said. “I think, by the end of October.”
Ruth Kennedy, board member from Russell, said she spoke to Kulik this week, too, and heard basically the same thing. “There’s still no guarantee on it,” Kennedy said.
“We can’t decide anything tonight that’s not conditional,” Shirley Winer of Chester said.
Winer also asked what happens if the courts decide in favor of an injunction on Worthington withdrawing from the district. The hearing on the injunction is set for October 22.
“It affects Worthington more than us,” said Kennedy, who is a pro se plaintiff in the injunction.
“Worthington picks up their share of the budget again,” Hopson said, if the injunction is granted. “It opens up Pandora’s box, so to speak.”
“If the court provides an injunction, said Anne-Marie Buikus of Montgomery. “we would have to go to a seven-town budget.”
“How would we create a seven-town budget with no School Committee members from Worthington?” Sarah Foley of Middlefield asked.
Other members asked what happens if Worthington appeals.
“If the court rules and grants an injunction,” Hopson said. “the state will change its cherry sheet figures.”
Hopson was referring to the above-minimum assessments figures for the towns that are set by the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE).
Darlene McVeigh, finance committee member from Huntington, asked if the towns will receive a complete budget, reflecting line item transfers voted on in Wednesday’s meeting.
Hopson said an updated line item budget will be provided to the towns for a new vote.
A roll-call vote for an amended Budget Version 1.1 was taken and passed 12-0.
The School Committee was required to vote on a new budget within 30 days of the defeat of the previous budget by the towns. The towns now have 45 days to respond. If no budget has been passed by Dec. 1, DESE may put a budget in place for the district. Hopson said the School Committee can adopt a new budget once all of the unknowns are known.

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