Williamstown backs plan to change school district assessment formula


WILLIAMSTOWN >> Town residents have approved a plan that would change the way their Mount Greylock Regional School District assessment is calculated.

At a special town meeting Tuesday at Williamstown Elementary School, voters unanimously approved the plan, which would base their funding level on enrollment and property assessments, rather than on a fixed formula. Lanesborough residents will vote on the plan next month.

After a short presentation, nobody offered any discussion, and the meeting moved quickly to a vote.

"I could not be happier," said Jane Patton, chairwoman of the Williamstown Board of Selectmen. "This proves again that Williamstown residents want a strong, vibrant community and that a strong school system is essential to that."

The proposed change came in response to Lanesborough citizens' concerns in light of a possible bond issue to finance a new construction/renovation project at the high school.

With a decline in Lanesborough enrollment figures over the past few years, residents were concerned that they would they be locked into paying a higher share of the construction cost when they have a shrinking number of students attending the school.

Superintendent Doug Dias said he wasn't surprised at the outcome.

"We came prepared for any questions," he said. "And for a town meeting with only a single article, the turnout was phenomenal. It demonstrates how important the schools are to the community."

There were 220 voters, out of 4,615 registered in Williamstown, at the special meeting.

A subcommittee of the School Committee studied the issue and came up with new formula to allow for changes in both enrollment numbers and property assessments from year to year, working off of a rolling five-year average.

Under the current formula for bond debt service, each town's enrollment and assessment figures are set at the time of the bond issue and remain there for the life of the bonds, or 20 to 30 years.

The proposed changes still need approval from Lanesborough voters at their special town meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 1 at the Lanesborough Elementary School.

Contact Scott Stafford at 413-496-6301.


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