School Budgets: What Happened, Why, What’s Next

WITH SCHOOL BUDGETS MAKING UP SUCH A LARGE proportion of the Town of Hawley’s total annual expenditures, it has to be a matter of concern when they are voted down summarily at Town Meeting. Here, in five concise points, is Selectboard Chair Hussain Hamdan’s explanation of what happened and why:

  1. The two school budgets were turned down as a formality.  In fact, this was done with the support of both the school district administration and the school committee.
  1. The reason is that the budgets were approved by school committee back in March, before anyone knew how much COVID-19 and the resultant loss of tax revenue was going to impact state aid.  Once this was understood, it became abundantly clear that these budgets were not in keeping with the financial realities we would be facing.

  1. Unfortunately, the way the law and the regional agreements are written requires the school committee to finalize its budget in March and they cannot be modified thereafter, unless voted down.  Hence the vote. 
  1. The plan is to run on a one twelfth budget (basically last year’s budget distributed on a month to month basis), which is the procedure until a budget can be proposed and voted successfully.  The school committee plans to have a new, more appropriate, budget proposed once we see what the state aid figures for FY-21 are.  We SHOULD know that in July. 
  1. The proposal may be greater than, less than, or equal to last year’s budget, depending on what those figures are, the potential effect on the local tax rate, and any costs associated  with modifying the school systems to deal with the COVID risk.

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