Podcast: Pentucket Towns Brace for Override Votes that Supt. Blames on State’s ‘Disturbing Trends’

School and construction leaders recently discussed ongoing work in the foyer of the new Pentucket Regional Middle/High School. (Courtesy photograph.)

Residents in two of the three towns making up the Pentucket Regional School District are being asked to consider overriding the state’s tax limiting law to pay for the school district’s nearly $50 million spending plan for next year

Groveland and Merrimac voters will consider what’s called an “operational budget override,” while West Newbury officials believe the added amount can be accommodated in the town’s planned budget. School Superintendent Justin Bartholomew told WHAV this week this is the district’s first Proposition 2 ½ override request in 10 years, and it mostly centers around transportation costs.

“As we negotiate our transportation contracts for our both our regular buses and special education buses, and we did not get full funding for regional transportation, which we were supposed to get. So, those three items alone put us back $583,000.”

Bartholomew added the spending plan includes six special education teaching positions and several other support positions. The posts are in keeping with guidelines recommended by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act “desperately needed” to meet student needs.

While the school district’s budget tends to rise annually by $1-1.4 million, he blamed the state for an education formula that provides only $69,000 more this year.

“So that $69,000 is not helping much. This has just been one of those disturbing trends that the state is focusing their money on more urban districts which certainly we agree that they need, but really pulling away from communities like ours,” he said.

He added the state approach is “severely burdening our taxpayers.”

Budget increases are not related to construction of the new middle and high schools which were approved under separate override votes.

Merrimac residents consider the issue at their Town Meeting Monday, April 25, while Groveland voters consider the budget item at Town Meeting Monday, May 23. Both Merrimac and Groveland, however, have the override question on their town election ballots Monday, May 2. Two of the three towns must approve the override for the school budget to take effect.

If approved, Groveland residents with a home valued at $400,000 would pay $139.30 more annually and Merrimac residents with a home valued at the same amount would pay $186.92 more.

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