LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — Town officials voted to include anticipated tuition revenue from New Ashford in the Mount Greylock Regional School budget, against the school official's advice.
Mount Greylock had put forth a budget aimed to keep the town's contribution for Lanesborough Elementary School flat. But, there is still uncertainty around whether or not New Ashford will continue to send their children to the district. The district is raising tuition for New Ashford and next week residents there will decide whether or not to pay it or seek to send their children elsewhere.
Superintendent Kimberly Grady previously told the Lanesborough officials that without knowing if those students will still be in the district, she did not account for the anticipated $112,000 in revenue. Instead, the district raided its reserves to keep the request flat and planned to refill those should New Ashford vote in favor.
"There is too much concern from the New Ashford side of things for me to confidently put in $112,000 to reduce the assessment to Lanesborough," Grady said in April.
In a recent 3-2 vote of the Finance Committee, however, Lanesborough officials voted to reduce that budget that goes to town meeting by the $112,000, confident that New Ashford will continue to send students there.
Finance Committee member Jodi Szczepaniak-Locke opposed it. On Thursday, when the Board of Selectmen voted to also support that reduction, Szczepaniak-Locke voiced opposition.
"I am vehemently opposed to the recent actions taken by the Select Board, members of the Finance Committee, and the town manager. We were presented with a conservative budget for our newly regionalized school district, a budget that for the fourth straight year has had a zero percent increase, a budget that was created and approved by an elected body," Szczepaniak-Locke said.
"They were conservative with regards to revenue. This means this budget was built without taking into account the New Ashford tuition money. They were smart, methodical, and they did not gamble. They did not put the bottom line at risk."
Szczepaniak-Locke is cautioning the town to be ready to find that money elsewhere should New Ashford vote against the tuition increase. She listed a number of items such as a new pickup truck for the Highway Department, work on roads around Pontoosuc Lake, a police cruiser, and the amount heading to stabilization as areas the town should be willing to cut out of its budget to replace that money should that happen.
The Board of Selectmen, however, have been confident that the agreement reached between Mount Greylock and New Ashford, one that hikes the tuition over course of three years, will pass. But, they are prepared to amend the district's budget on the floor should that vote goes against Lanesborough's favor.
"If, for some reason, New Ashford doesn't vote the money through, our budget can be adjusted on the floor," Chairman John Goerlach said.
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