ADAMS, Mass. — The Finance Committee rejected the citizen's petition article to amend the Adams-Cheshire Regional School District agreement and allow Cheshire to independently fund its elementary school.
"We usually don’t vote on citizen’s petitions and we just send them through but this one will have a major impact," Finance Committee member Jeffrey Lefebvre said. "I think we should give a sense of direction on what our feeling is."
The petition came from Cheshire residents, who gathered signatures from 10 percent of registered voters in town. The emergency amendment to the regional district agreement needs to be approved by both towns.
Town Administrator Tony Mazzucco said the article, an attempt at reversing the School Committee’s decision to close Cheshire Elementary School, still has no legal foothold because it came through as a citizen’s petition. But the Selectmen will have to reopen the town meeting warrant to place the article.
"It would amend the district agreement even though in theory the language isn’t actually proper to amend the district agreement…it needs an actual statement of what needs to be changed it is just and aspirational statement of what they want to see," Mazzucco said.
He added with the vagueness of the amendment he felt the state Department of Education may not approve it – a critical step in the amendment process.
Finance Committee Chairman Tim Burdick said he was concerned that such a change, as worded in the petition, could keep Adams on the hook for capital and emergency repairs in the future.
"I am not convinced that this won’t create possible financial issues down the road for the town of Adams, and I would never want to interfere with what another town wants to do," Burdick said.
"But that’s where this gets scary, we don’t have everything fully spelled out and when something like this gets in, we have to figure out how it works."
He added this could mean outside legal fees just to sort out how the amendment actually works.
Mazzucco said he felt it was completely under the committee’s preview to make a recommendation.
"The school district is a $5.5 million line item and our largest legal and financial responsibility," Mazzucco said. "It is absolutely a concern of the Finance Committee."
The committee approved all other warrant articles except for the McCann assessment, which it voted to reject during the budget hearing as a protest vote.
The town’s McCann assessment jumped up 27 percent because on an increase in students. The committee felt the increase was too much.
Because multiple towns are part of the McCann district more towns would have to vote down the budget in order to force McCann back to the drawing board. That is unlikely because many of the smaller member towns may see little to no change in assessments.
Mazzucco did note that heard that Clarksburg and Lanesborough have expressed frustrations in the McCann budget formula.
In other business, the finance committee approved $72,500 in reserve fund transfers for legal fees, snow and ice removal, DPW overtime, vent cleaning at the Police Station, and a mandated state Department of Environmental Protection report.
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