CHESHIRE, Mass. — The Selectmen have tentatively scheduled a special town meeting on Monday, July 17, to try again to pass the Adams-Cheshire Regional School District budget.
Officials met with School committee Chairman Paul Butler on Tuesday night to figure out the next steps in the budget process and with coming deadlines, both they and Butler agreed it would be prudent to have a budget in place sooner than later.
"I don't want to postpone this too long," Selectwoman Carol Francesconi said.
Town meeting on Monday rejected the $19.2 million school budget in what some saw as a last-ditch effort to keep Cheshire Elementary School open — or an expression of frustration. The fiscal 2018 budget is based on closing the small school and consolidating its grades at Hoosac Valley High School and C.T. Plunkett in Adams.
However, a raft of citizens' petitions on the town meeting warrant designed to amend the district agreement and appropriate funds for the school's operation were defeated after town counsel questioned their legality.
Butler said the School Committee will meet on Wednesday, June 21, two days after the Adams town meeting, to reconsider the budget. He said if it is decided to resubmit the same budget, Cheshire would just have to vote again. If they change, it the business manager would need time to rebuild the budget.
If the budget is higher than the previous budget, Adams, too, would have to vote again.
Francesconi suggested that the Selectmen meet July 3 to pass a warrant for the special town meeting so to make all the legal requirements for postings.
Butler added that Putnam had asked the state for a 15-day extension on its 30-day limit to reconsider the budget. If there is not a budget set by July 1, the start of the fiscal year, the district will have to operate on a reduced budget until one can be passed.
If a budget fails to pass Cheshire again, the vote will go districtwide
If the towns cannot agree on a budget by Dec. 1 the state takes over the school district.
Francesconi said, above all, she hopes town meeting considers what is best for the children.
"I hope that people take into account the importance of the education of the children and will put that first above anything else," she said.
Town Administrator Mark Webber added that not having a school budget in place may put the town's budget in jeopardy because it cannot receive state Department of Revenue approval.
"There is concern that the town cannot certify its fiscal 2018 budget without the school budget," he said. "We had a joint call with DOR and we had a long conversation ... the path forward is a bit complex and needs to be scheduled aggressively."
Francesconi added the town can't send out tax bills until the school budget is certified
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