CHESHIRE, Mass. — The Selectmen said they have had enough of Adams influencing the regional school district and will hold a meeting with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education without them.
"Our goal is not to hurt education. That is the last thing we want to do but I think collectively this town has had enough," acting Chairman Robert Ciskowski said Tuesday. "We are going to put our foot down, and it has been going on too long.
"There have been bad feelings and I have been on a slow simmer for 30 years now and now we have a rallying point."
The Adams-Cheshire Regional School Committee put its budget issues to rest Monday night in passing a $19.2 million fiscal 2018 budget that relies on closing Cheshire Elementary School. The unanimous vote came after a monthlong standoff between the four Adams representatives and three Cheshire representatives on the committee who stonewalled the passage of a budget that kept C.T. Plunkett in Adams open over Cheshire Elementary.
The adopted budget was largely dictated by the 3 percent increase that Adams, the larger member of the district, said it could afford.
With Adams nearing its levy ceiling, Adams officials said they cannot support and override.
Ciskowski said Cheshire has always showed a willingness to support education but Adams has always held a hard line on what it said it could afford which, because of the regional agreement, limits how much Cheshire can give.
"Before you, when the School Committee came to Cheshire to present their budget, there was a sigh of relief," Ciskowski said to Superintendent Robert Putnam who attended the meeting. "Because Adams raked them over the coals ... you could feel the collective sigh at Cheshire town meeting because we have always supported education."
Selectwoman Carol Francesconi said this won't be the case this year and Cheshire will no longer be "yes-men."
"This budget will be scrutinized like it has never been scrutinized before and at every meeting I have been to ... the School Committee always come to us and we have accepted what they presented and said that we understood," she said. "Well that isn't going to happen. We are going through that with a fine-toothed comb."
The School Committee adopted a budget that members felt had a higher probability of surviving the two town meetings. The budget is likely to cruise through Adams town meeting; however, Cheshire town meeting may prove to be an immovable object that will reject any budget that does not consider keeping Cheshire Elementary open.
If Cheshire refuses to pass the budget it will be volleyed back to the School Committee, which can put forth the same budget or alter it accordingly. A budget cannot be passed unless both towns agree to it.
If the towns cannot agree on a budget by July the district will be reduced to a 1/12 budget and the district will have to sustain on an allowance of its fiscal 2017 budget every month.
The Selectmen asked Putnam to set up a meeting with DESE officials to go over how the budget scenarios could play out.
Francesconi said Adams is not invited.
"Adams seems to always be having secret meetings with the district," she said. "Why can't we have one with just Cheshire? So much has been going behind our backs."
Francesconi said if she could, she would dissolve the district today.
"If I had the means to pull Cheshire from the district today we would do it," she said. "If we could do it,
we would do it on a dime."
Ciskowski said the district agreement really has never paid off for Cheshire and the two communities, one a former farming community and the other industrial, only share a border.
"The towns have such different philosophies on education and finances there could not be two different towns in a regional district," he said. "We share a boundary but have two different backgrounds ... it wasn't a good choice but at the time it felt like it. It has not worked out for Cheshire at all."
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