ADAMS, Mass. — The vagueness of an amendment pushed by Cheshire citizens to amend the regional school district as a way to keep their school open has Adams officials wary of the fall out.
The Selectmen have added the amendment to the annual town meeting warrant but wanted to make it clear that it could have a financial impact in Adams. The amendment would purportedly allow Cheshire to spend more on its school without triggering proportional spending by Adams.
With four separate motions Wednesday, the board reopened the warrant and added the article to the Adams-Cheshire Regional School District.
Town Administrator Tony Mazzucco said he had real concerns over its wording.
"I think we all understand what the intent is but the writing is where the problem is. From an operational standpoint, I have a lot of concerns and the language is not clear," Mazzucco said. "The agreement is also mandated by the state funding formulas and it's just far more complex. ...
"You almost can't justify the financial impact because this doesn't, I think, amend the agreement. It just states what they want to happen. You can't do any other contract like that."
According to the 50-year-old regional agreement, if 10 percent of the registered voters in one of the member towns deliver a petition to amend to the School Committee, the committee must heed the call and deliver the amendment as an article for both towns to consider.
A group of Cheshire residents surpassed this number to delivered an amendment to the School Committee that would allow the town to increase its assessment and independently fund Cheshire Elementary School without affecting Adams' assessment.
Both communities need to pass the article that ultimately must be approved by the Department of Education. It's not a guarantee of keeping the school open because the town would also have to appropriate the money to keep it running and Cheshire officials aren't sure they have that.
Chairman John Duval, a former School Committee member, said it is far more complicated than the language in the proposed amendment based in his past experience in changing the agreement.
He asked Town Counsel Edmund St. John III how exactly the amendment could financially affect Adams.
"I want to make sure that everyone understands by passing this is not just allowing Cheshire to fund their school but there is an impact to Adams," he said. "I think people need to know that there may be impacts even though it may not look it."
Although St. John said he would have to research how and if the amendment would affect Adams' finances. But he believed the amendment to be illegal because the towns can't force the School Committee to reopen a school they voted to close in March.
"There are a lot of things that they are asking for in the article that appear to me to tell the school district to do something that I think is illegal from the perspective of the towns," he said. "If the school district does want to have a school there or educate children there ... it's the prerogative of the school district."
The article mimics a citizens' petition article that was placed on the warrant before its closing. Because the citizens' petition article did not follow the proper protocol, it only acts as a non-binding referendum.
Both articles will be on the warrant.
Although the Finance Committee voted not to recommend the citizens' petition article, the Selectmen, who historically have not added a recommendation to town meeting articles, decided to stay silent.
Selectman Joseph Nowak said he plans to make a statement when town meeting gets closer, however, he felt the efforts in Cheshire were sizzling out.
"I think the momentum is starting to falter with this and the citizens of Cheshire I believe are seeing financially there is no way they can do it," Nowak said. "So we have to be careful and make sure we bring forth our thoughts."
Mazzucco said he heard a rumor that a third petition was on its way to the warrant having to do with education but said by charter the town has to send the warrant to town meeting members and time is running out.
"I think this is a good faith action putting this on the warrant because you could make the argument that we don't have to because we closed it," he said. "If the board wanted to add more warrant articles now I would say it would cause trouble at town meeting. We are required to do this according to the agreement and we still can do it but time is running out."
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