Dalton Select Board Balks at Proposed School Bill

By Dan GigliottiiBerkshires Correspondent
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The Select Board on Monday said it could not support the Central Berkshire Regional School District's tentative budget.

DALTON, Mass. — The Select Board is not backing the Central Berkshire Regional School District's tentative budget, saying it simply cannot afford the increase in town assessment.

The budget, voted on by the School Committee during a special meeting on Feb. 18, calls for an increase in the town's assessment of 9.23 percent in fiscal 2015, or $707,282.

"We cannot be supportive of this budget at this time," Chairman John Boyle said on Monday night.

Should the tentative budget be approved, the town would face a structural deficit in its overall town budget in excess of $500,000, according to town officials.

"It's a horrible scenario. It's a scary scenario," board member John Bartels said. "Not only for the town, but for the taxpayer, no matter what happens."

Town Manager Kenneth Walto reported on the tentative school budget totals, which show an increase in town assessments set for 7.32 percent overall to compensate for an approximate $1.2 million increase in the FY15 budget from last year (4.64 percent increase).

Walto said the town has the ability to raise a maximum of about $400,000 in new tax money. Approval of the tentative budget as it stands would send the town into a deficit or require an override. To avoid either of those circumstances, Dalton can afford only a 2.5 percent increase, or about $180,000 to $200,000, according to Walto.

Of the seven towns in the district's regional agreement, Dalton faces the largest assessment increase, a number calculated in part based on student population. According to town officials, five of the seven towns must agree to the school budget in order for it to be adopted.

The Select Board was generally flummoxed by the exponential increase, based on its lack of insight into the cause of the increases. Some board members expressed regret that there was no additional information provided by the School Committee with the tentative budget approval request.

"I would just think that some of the Dalton representatives from the School Committee might be here to explain this to us, but maybe they didn't realize that we were going over the budget tonight," board member Louisa Horth said.

Boyle said he will represent the Select Board at a meeting Tuesday night with the school district's Finance Committee with a general "wait-and-see" stance. A public hearing on the tentative budget is scheduled for Thursday at 7 p.m. at Nessacus Regional Middle School.

The FY15 tentative budget was approved by the School Committee in lieu of the finance subcommittee's recommended total of $26.6 million, or an overall increase of 3 percent.

Tags: assessment,   CBRSD,   school budget,   

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