Gateway School Committee to vote on new budget Oct. 7

MONTGOMERY – During Wednesday’s meeting at the Montgomery Town Hall, Gateway Superintendent David B. Hopson told the School Committee that since four towns have rejected the FY2016 budget, the committee has 30 days to vote on a new budget, counting from Sept. 10, the date of the last special town meeting vote.
Hopson said he checked with Rep. Stephen Kulik about the status of the state’s supplemental budget and the long-awaited mitigation funds of $630,000 for Gateway to offset the cost of Worthington’s withdrawal to the district. Kulik told him the expected date for passage of the supplemental budget with the mitigation funds is now the first week in October.
Hopson said a hearing is scheduled for October 22 for the injunction against Worthington’s withdrawal, which also may impact the budget. If the judge grants the injunction, Gateway is back to a seven-town district for FY2016.
“Because there are so many balls in the air, I think our best bet is to vote a budget the way it is now, and let it go to the towns,” Ruth Kennedy, member from Russell and a pro se plaintiff in the lawsuit, said.
“We really have to make a decision at the next meeting (on October 7) to vote,” Kennedy added.
“One of the options we haven’t thought about is what if the state doesn’t come through, or comes through with a lesser amount, because we’re not going to get mitigation funding next year,” Jeff Wyand of Huntington said. “The towns have already turned down Proposition 2 ½.”
Stephanie Fisk was asked to provide a new budget for consideration by the School Committee that contained adjustments for transportation and school choice students for the next meeting.
In a related matter, the Blandford Select Board sent a letter to the School Committee asking them to petition the state to send an annual contribution of $630,000 – $800,000 to the Gateway Regional School District.
The letter read: “We consider the legislature’s approval of Worthington’s withdrawal from Gateway as an unfunded mandate, and as such, reimbursable by the State.”
“It’s up to the School Committee to request Suzanne Bump, the state auditor, to look into Worthington’s withdrawal as an unfunded mandate,” Kennedy said, after the letter was read. “I’m going to recommend that we do this when the time comes.”
Hopson asked Kennedy to be prepared to speak on this request at the next School Committee meeting.
Following the meeting, Blandford Selectman Andy Montanaro said the Select Board made the request because it was the legislature’s action which created the problem of the Gateway funding shortfall. He said since the school is directly impacted, the board thought it would be best to come directly from them. He added that the fiscal damage this has created to the six remaining towns is unmanageable.

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