By Christina Braccio Sentinel Staff
WINCHESTER — Claiming the town’s budget committee isn’t fulfilling its duty, Winchester’s school board is taking an unusual step, saying it will submit a proposed budget for the coming school year.
Usually the budget committee is responsible for presenting a budget proposal to voters, but the school board says the committee’s $9.1 million budget cuts too severely and won’t meet the state legal requirement to adequately educate the town’s students. Board members also say the budget committee didn’t meet the deadline — today — for completing its budget review.
In its place, the school board proposes an $11.5 million budget. The current-year budget is $11,089,128.
“The budget committee never discussed the warrant articles, and they needed to have another public hearing to do so — but the deadline to submit a budget for the deliberative session is Jan. 30,” board Chairwoman Colleen Duquette said. “The chairman did schedule a meeting for Tuesday at 7 p.m. to revisit the school budget, but we believe it’s too late.”
However, Brian D. Moser, budget committee chairman, said the committee’s budget will be the one discussed at the Feb. 9 deliberative session.
“There may be some questions regarding the warrant articles, and they may not get a recommendation from the budget committee on those, but we still plan to post our budget,” Moser said. “The only way ours won’t go to the deliberative session is if the school board posts their budget first.”
Superintendent Kenneth R. Dassau said he and the board consulted with their attorney and are acting under state law, which says the school board should submit its budget if the budget committee fails to complete its review.
“They failed to follow the proper budget preparation procedures, so the school board’s budget will be the only one posted, and we will be deliberating on that budget,” Dassau said.
Last week, Dassau sent a letter to Brian Moser, stating the board plans to file suit against the committee for proposing a budget the board believes will provide an inadequate education to Winchester students.
“The committee wanted to make huge cuts to special education, which is illegal,” Dassau said.
The committee also proposed eliminating the business office, 14 teacher positions and seven special education teachers, Duquette said.
“The tax rate is very high, and I feel for residents — we’re taxpayers, too,” Duquette said. “The budget committee is under pressure to cut as much as possible, but in my opinion, I don’t think that they’re being realistic. This would just result in lawsuits and legal expenses that are not necessary.”
As of Sunday evening, Moser said he still has not received the letter, but he believes the budget committee is doing what is best for the town.
“I feel that the budget committee did their homework and came up with a reasonable proposal, but the school does not,” Moser said. “If a lawsuit is what they feel they have to do, then they’re going to do it.”
The school board plans to meet Thursday evening to officially decide whether to pursue legal action against the budget committee, according to Dassau.
Christina Braccio can be reached at 352-1234 extension 1436, or email@example.com