Gateway Superintendent’s Corner

The Gateway Regional School Committee’s special meeting to address the FY’16 budget, slated to be held at Gateway on July 22, was cancelled due to an insufficient number of school committee members being able to attend. Special school committee meetings are always difficult to arrange given the hectic nature of most people’s lives and with families on summer vacations it is even more difficult to reach a quorum. Given the fact that our school committee membership is now down to thirteen people, and that we need 10 votes to adopt a revised budget, it only takes a few busy people to call off a meeting.
The net result is that the existing FY’16 budget remains in place. This is similar to what’s happened in the past when the school committee was not able to reach a consensus on a revised budget and obtain the required two-thirds vote. As we did in the past, the business office will review any changes that could potentially impact the district assessments to the towns and the district treasurer will provide a new town assessment figure within 7 days of the action, or inaction, of the school committee. As town assessments are set by the district treasurer based upon the budget adopted by the school committee, they are not directly voted upon by the committee and can change (they potentially could remain the same, increase or decrease) despite the budget remaining the same.
As I’ve stated many times over the past several months, planning for the FY’16 budget has been extremely difficult given the uncertainties with the disagreements over Worthington’s withdrawal from the district, the potential for mitigation funding from the state to offset this revenue loss, and the lateness of the state’s FY’16 budget being finished. The reality is that these items, with the exception of the state’s FY’16 budget, are still unknown quantities and could change as we move forward through the next several weeks. I believe this is one of the reasons the district and school committee have not developed and adopted different budget versions this spring. However, as School Committee member Ruth Kennedy has stated often, not having a budget passed by the towns does not mean that the district isn’t able to continue operations. In fact, as reported in multiple locations, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has approved a one-twelfth budget for the district based upon the school committee’s adopted budget. This allows the district to continue operations, allows the school committee and towns to work on revising a budget that will be acceptable to all parties, and allows time for the state to take action on mitigation funding for the district.
Related to these uncertainties is the increased discussion about the viability and sustainability of the Gateway Regional School District. I’m hopeful that as the district moves forward with the visioning process of “Gateway 2025” we’ll be able to join with towns, GTAC, parents, students, and staff in a collaborative manner to collect, review, and disseminate information allowing us to have a more complete picture of what we want in our educational system and a way to financially support this vision that works for both our children and our towns over time. I believe there are many potential opportunities for meeting the needs of our children and that a logical, even-handed, non-threatening process based upon knowledge and shared understandings is the best way to reach consensus and allow the school committee to make an informed decision on how to move forward as a district.

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