State left to determine NRSD FY20 budget

  • From left to right — NRSD School Committee Chair Margaret Hughes, and committee members Deborah Koziol, Deborah Robichaud, and Lori Mattson listen as Templeton resident John Jasinski urges the committee to fully fund the Narragansett Regional school district.  —Greg Vine

  • The Narragasett Regional School Committee met Tuesday night to discuss the district’s FY20 budget. From left — Supt. Chris Casavant, student representative James Houle, committee member Victoria Chartier, Vice Chair Rae-Ann Trifilo, Chair Margaret Hughes, members Deborah Koziol, Deborah Robichaud, Lori Mattson, and Henry Mason. Not shown in picture is Jeffrey Marques. Greg Vine

  • Phillipston Selectboard Chair Kim Pratt asks the Narragansett School Committee to provide the funding necessary “for students to succeed." 

  • Residents attending Tuesday’s meeting of the Narragansett Regional School Committee kill time in the halls of Narragansett Regional High School. Greg Vine

For the Athol Daily News
Published: 10/30/2019 9:55:16 PM
Modified: 10/30/2019 9:55:06 PM

TEMPLETON — The Narragansett Regional School Committee Tuesday night shot down two proposals to enact a fiscal year 2020 budget other than the $19.7 million spending package previously approved by the committee. Because two Templeton town meetings and three joint town meetings consisting of voters from both Templeton and Phillipston have rejected the committee’s budget, it will now be up to the state to determine the district budget for FY20. It should be noted that Phillipston voters endorsed the school committee budget at their annual town meeting.

Before any votes were taken, Templeton resident John Jasinski told the committee, “Your taking your oath of office put you in the position of providing support to the students and the staff of the school district. You did not create the financial mess the town of Templeton finds itself in. The mistakes in financial matters within this community go back to too many years of errors in judgment, including trying to maintain a ridiculously low tax rate.”

Jasinski also faulted the state for failing to revamp the Chapter 70 funding formula for providing support to the Commonwealth’s public schools and for underfunding school transportation costs. He urged the committee to stick with the $19.7 million figure.

Kim Pratt, Chair of the Phillipston Selectboard, who stated she was speaking solely on her own behalf, said, “Phillipston always supports the requested school budget. We always pass the district budget, even though Phillipston pays more per student, ever since the state changed the minimum contribution formula. When it comes to education, Phillipston’s children are at the mercy of Templeton. When the budget is cut, services are cut; and when services are cut, all of us feel those cuts, not just Templeton. So, I’m asking you to vote and certify the budget that you know in your heads and you know in your hearts is the number we truly need to provide the best education we can, and that gives our students the best chance to succeed.”

Narragansett District Education Association President Erick Eiben also urged the committee to stick with its $19.7 million budget.

After committee member Henry Mason moved to certify a budget of $19.65 million, the committee entered into a brief executive session to discuss potential cuts such a budget would require. After reconvening in open session, the panel defeated Mason’s proposal by a vote of five in favor, three opposed. The motion required six affirmative votes to succeed.

A subsequent vote to certify the $19.5 million narrowly supported by voters at last week’s joint town meeting also went down to defeat.

Committee Chair Margaret Hughes explained that since the district does not have an approved budget, district officials must notify the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Officials at DESE will have until Dec. 1 to cobble together a spending plan for the NRSD. Until now the district, with state approval, has been operating month-to-month on a one-twelfth budget, based on the $19.7 million plan approved by the committee.

Committee member Vitoria Koziol said, “There’s no guarantee the state is coming in and supporting this budget (at the current level), and if there are cuts that need to be made, it needs to be now. A month and a half is much further into the budget season, where we’re spending at the nineteen-seven level. I just want people to be aware of that.”

“I would stress,” said Hughes, “that if there are positions that are not filled that it makes sense to hold off on a decision until we do have a number. We have to be responsible. We can’t speak for the state at this point.”

Templeton officials had argued in favor of a $19.5 million school budget in order to avoid the need to cut more than $200,000 from the fire, police, and public works departments.

Asked following Tuesday’s meeting if those cuts will now become a reality, Templeton Town Administrator Carter Terenzini said, “It all depends on what the state does.”


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