Phillipston Selectboard: No special town meeting ... yet

  • Phillipston Town Hall in Phillipston. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

For The Athol Daily News
Published: 8/2/2020 4:28:24 PM
Modified: 8/2/2020 4:28:23 PM

PHILLIPSTON — At last Wednesday’s meeting of the Phillipston Selectboard, member Kim Pratt made a motion to hold a special town meeting to vote on the town’s assessment for the Narragansett Regional School District, fellow member Gerhard Fandreyer refused to back the motion, and Chair John Telepciak remained silent, thus allowing Pratt’s motion to die without a second.

The issue of a special town meeting follows a July 15 vote by the NRSD School Committee to recertify a FY21 budget that assesses Phillipston’s share of the spending package at $1.6 million. At the annual town meeting on May 30, Phillipston voters overwhelmingly approved spending only $1 million on education.

“We have still not received a letter from the school department regarding the recertification of the budget,” said the town’s Chief Administrative Officer, Kevin Flynn. “We sent an email off to Sue Varney (Executive Assistant to Supt. Chris Casavant) asking if the school committee had recertified, or had they sent a letter out, and she said she didn’t know and would check.”

It turned out that Pratt later received notification from Varney that the committee had indeed recertified the budget. Flynn said the town, by state law, has 45 days from the date of certification to convene a special town meeting.

Fandreyer said the town should get more information, including firm figures on how much state aid for education will be in FY21, as well as a total on the amount of grant monies the district has received, before voters consider how much to spend on education.

“I’m not telling you to make a decision,” said Flynn. “I’m asking you if you want to make a decision. Certainly, it’s the board’s decision to make whether you want to schedule a town meeting or not.”

Pratt said she wanted to hold a meeting on Aug. 27, as long as all the posting and public hearing requirements could be met.

“I don’t think we should do it now,” Fandreyer responded. “I think we should wait until we get some valid numbers from the state. And somebody telling Kim something is not informing the town.”

“I emailed the superintendent’s office to see what the deadline was for us to have a special town meeting,” Pratt interjected. “And that is the response I got.”

I don’t trust anything from the superintendent’s office,” Fandreyer shot back.

“Before we make that final decision,” Pratt continued, “we’d better find out what the consequences are for not having that done in the time and way we have been instructed to do.”

Fandreyer insisted that the clock for holding the special town meeting had not yet started ticking because the town had not received official notification from the district regarding recertification.

“You guys have to stop saying everything’s a lie,” said an exasperated Pratt. “Call for yourself and talk to them. You’re going to have to open your ears at some point.”

“They misrepresent everything,” was the response. “I don’t agree that we should do this. Every time in the past they have always sent us a letter saying that they have recertified. This time, they have decided not so send it. Why is that? Until we get that letter, I don’t think the 45 days should kick in.”

Finance Committee member Ruth French then quoted state law, which affirmed a town meeting needs to be held within 45 days of certification.

“Although, here’s the kicker,” she said. “It does say that the district treasurer of the school committee shall notify the treasurers of the member municipalities, ‘not later than seven days from the date the amended regional school district budget was adopted.’ So, they have seven days to notify our treasurer, not our selectmen.”

“Since they haven’t notified anybody in this town, just like they didn’t do a presentation in this town,” said Fandreyer, “we should wait until they notify; from that date, the 45 days starts. Not from when they voted. That’s idiotic.”

Pratt said she wanted to go on record as opposing any decision to forego a special town meeting, then followed with a motion to hold a meeting on Aug. 27.

Fandreyer said he would refuse to second the motion.

Telepciak, who could have provided a second, instead remained silent and moved on to the next agenda item, thus killing Pratt’s motion.

The issue, however, is certain to be raised at a meeting in the near future.

Greg Vine can be reached at gvineadn@gmail.com


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