Whitman Selectmen are standing firm on their budget proposal headed for Town Meeting, including the budget that supports education.
Hanson Selectmen, meanwhile discussed the Regional Agreement amendment on the issue with Town Counsel Kate Feodoroff.
“I’m comfortable that you get the savings in the first year, and that’s the real benefit,” Feodoroff said.
Both boards met virtually on Tuesday, June 30.
“The budget is built on the assumption that we meet in the middle, in a transition from the current [school] budget method … to the statutory method, which is what most communities in Massachusetts that are regional are using,” said Town Administrator Frank Lynam. “Hopefully, we’ll see support for that when we go to our Town Meeting on July 27.”
Selectmen Chairman Dr. Carl Kowalski agreed.
“It’s the only real way for us to help the schools to transition from this year to next year,” Kowalski said. “The best thing to do for the students of our system, and for our system itself, is to go with the Selectmen’s recommendation and not the Finance Committee’s recommendation on the school budget.”
Selectman Randy LaMattina, who worked on the panel of officials from both towns that drafted the compromise, said that while there may be a better financial path, there is not a better path toward supporting education and the school district.
“It’s a two-part piece — one will not work without the other,” LaMattina said. “You can’t say you support the budget and not the amendment.”
He said town officials are aware Hanson will “struggle to get there” and if the relationship is going to be preserved both towns are needed.
“It’s sink or swim together and are we going to make it work?” LaMattina said. “For the budget to work this year, we need to offer Hanson some help of what basically and ultimately comes down to $211,000.”
Selectman Dan Salvucci asked if Hanson helped Whitman the previous year when they had to take $840,000 out of stabilization to offset the budget.
“Sometimes you do the wrong thing for the right reason,” LaMattina said, but stressed the 50/50 compromise is the best deal Hanson is going to get.
Lynam said the Finance Committee can, at Town Meeting, recommend a budget less than what the School Committee is requesting, but all that does is reject the budget.
“It has no other action,” Lynam said.
The School Committee’s budget must be presented to Town Meeting. But if Hanson’s budget does not support the assessment, the budget itself is rejected and the district can’t use Whitman’s appropriation until a budget is established, according to Lynam.
If Whitman passes a school budget that Hanson does not, there is no minimum time limit for the School Committee to approve another assessment.
Kowalski also reported that the way a recent paid posting of an ad in the Express by the Whitman Finance Committee, according to town counsel, was not in violation of either an ethical or campaign finance standpoint. Selectmen also have no authority over the Finance Committee, which is appointed by the Town Moderator.