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Clarksburg School Committee Requests Extension on School Project

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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CLARKSBURG, Mass. — School Committee is formally asking for an extension on its school building renovation plans in light of new information on the town's financial status. 
The school district and its partners are asking for time until Jan. 12 to meet with financial and legal consultants "to review the feasibility of moving forward." 
The district was required to submit a letter to the Massachusetts School Building Authority by this past Monday, Dec. 4, indicating how — or if — it would move forward after a second failed vote on borrowing for the $19 million project. 
In his letter, Superintendent Jon Lev wrote that the School Building Committee had voted not to pursue the project on Nov. 21, but then the Select Board met a week later.  
"Select Board of Clarksburg met on Nov. 29 and released new tax rates that contradicted their projections prior to the vote. In light of this new information, and other misinformation that was disseminated to the town, members of the School Building Committee, Clarksburg School Committee and others in town would like to request an extension in their timeline to decide whether to proceed with or pull out of the agreement with the MSBA." 
The School Building Committee, which had considered itself dissolved on Nov. 21, will hold a meeting before the end of the year and both school committees plan to attend next week's Select Board meeting. 
The committee was taken aback by the information at last week's Select Board meeting that the town's total value had increased dramatically and that the tax rate would actually drop. 
"They were OK in August, not OK when the vote came out, now they're OK again," said committee member John Solari. 
The debt exclusion for the school project failed to reach the two-thirds vote required by a single ballot in September. A revote by petition in November, however, saw the largest turnout in the town's history and the vote failed by 292-263.
The divisive vote followed claims of misinformation by both proponents and opponents. Approval of the debt exclusion would have allowed the town to borrow outside of Proposition 2 1/2 limits for the $7.7 million of the project not being covered by the MSBA. Town officials had painted a bleak picture of the town's finances and predicted the extra $3.25 on the tax rate to cover the bond would bankrupt it. 
School officials say they were surprised by last week's tax classification hearing that dropped — not increased — the tax rate as had been forecast. Still, the average taxpayer will see about another $100 on his or her property bill despite the decrease. 
"Obviously, we want to talk to the Select Board of where we're at and how we feel about things," Lev said. "Even if we have to give up on the $11.3 million from the MSBA, we might still want to have Clark [Rowell of Unibank] involved and legal counsel also."

Tags: Clarksburg school project,   

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