Great Barrington voters get second chance to approve school budget

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GREAT BARRINGTON >> Voters at Monday night's special town meeting will only be asked to approve one question, but it's a big one.

The lone warrant article asks voters to approve the town's assessment to the three-town Berkshire Hills Regional School District for the upcoming fiscal year.

The total assessment is $14.46 million, representing an operating budget of $13.83 million and a capital budget of $636,138. The overall increase over this year is about $500,000.

The meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. at Monument Mountain Regional High School.

At May's annual town meeting, Great Barrington residents voted down the school budget for the first time in several decades by a count of 215-176.

The rejection reflects a ongoing split in the community, as some residents believe that they are unfairly burdened with a disproportionate share of the district budget based on a regional formula created decades ago.

That sentiment prevailed in 2014 when the town failed to muster the votes necessary to approve spending on a proposed renovation project at the high school.

In the district's 2017 budget, the town's $14.46 million assessment represents about 70 percent of the entire spending plan. Many residents suggested the "no" vote was primarily symbolic, as both Stockbridge and West Stockbridge were expected to approve their portion of the budget — which they did.

But while the district agreement requires that only two of three towns approve the budget for its passage, the Town of Great Barrington still must obtain voter permission to spend the money, according to Town Manager Jennifer Tabakin.

A "no" vote would require the district to request yet another special town meeting before the end of June — or it could sue Great Barrington for the funds.

"But nobody wants to think about that," district superintendent Peter Dillon said at a recent School Committee meeting. "We're counting on approval."

Contact Derek Gentile at 413-496-6251.


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