Russell approves Gateway budget

Russell became the third town to approve the Gateway Regional School budget last night at Town Meeting.  Russell voted to approve three articles in the town warrant on the school budget that were amended to reflect the lower figures in Gateway Budget Version 3.0, which has yet to be voted on by the Gateway Regional School Committee.  One week ago, Blandford also approved the Gateway budget based on the lower town assessment figures in Version 3.0 at its town meeting.
Prior to the town meeting, the Finance Committee met to discuss changing its recommendation for the Gateway budget from disapproval to approval.
Philip Winterson, chairman of the Finance Committee, said, “The school budget started very high, and they’ve been coming down. Since the warrant for the town meeting has been printed, Version 3.0 has been published. I think a good case can be made to approve it.”
“The Gateway School Committee has acted on our requests,” Winterson said. “They have used additional Chapter 70 funds (reimbursement for regional transportation) to lower town assessments. As a result, Russell’s (increased) assessment, which was $190,000, is now $69,700.”
Winterson said the majority of the new assessment comes from Russell’s increase in the percentage of students, and the state’s above minimum contribution, neither of which Russell nor Gateway can do anything about.
“For all those reasons, I would recommend that the Finance Committee recommend approval of Version 3.0 of the budget,” Winterson said.
Fifty-eight voters were present out of 968 at the town meeting. Illtyd Fernandez served as moderator and opened the meeting with a request that “civility be the order of the day.”  He also asked for a round of applause and thanks “to the folks who do a lot of work for the town.”
The residents then proceeded to approve the budget for the town section by section with little debate, including Gateway’s portion changed to reflect the lower figures of Version 3.0.
Five out of the seven towns must approve the budget in order for it to pass.  To date, three towns – Russell, Blandford and Middlefield – passed it, while Worthington did not. Still to vote on Gateway’s budget at their town meetings are Montgomery, Chester and Huntington.
This was Winterson’s last act as chairman of the Finance Committee before his retirement, according to Town Clerk Virginia Hardie.  Also leaving the committee are Tammy Sanderson and John Ganson.  New members Steve Garen and Darlene Meachum were approved at the town meeting, along with returning member Brenda Marra.  They will join Derrick Mason, Dave Cummings and Theresa Fox to round out the Finance Committee.

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