WINCHESTER — After a turbulent start to budget season, Winchester’s school board and budget committee may land in court.
The board plans to sue the committee, saying the panel cut the budget to an inoperable amount, according to a letter from Superintendent Kenneth R. Dassau to committee Chairman Brian D. Moser.
The committee adopted a budget of $9,197,777 for the 2012-13 year — which is 20 percent lower than the school board’s recommended budget of $11,510,850.
Dassau said the loss of $2.3 million from the budget plan would leave the district unable to function. The committee proposed eliminating the district’s business office and business software, which would cause serious payroll and financial troubles, Dassau said. It also wants to cut 14 teaching positions at Winchester School.
The committee also proposed cutting nearly $1 million in funding for special education programs required by law, Dassau said.
“I spoke with our attorney, and cutting that is illegal,” he said. “They don’t have the authority to do that. They are violating state and federal laws, and opening up the district to lawsuits from parents with children who need those services.”
The budget plan now heads to voters, where during next month’s deliberative session, they can discuss and amend the committee’s budget proposal. According to law, residents can add only up to 10 percent to a budget committee’s recommendation. Even if that happened, the budget would still be 10 percent lower than the board’s recommendation, which would leave the district scrambling to provide services to students, Dassau said.
He said the board decided to file suit in the hopes that the budget will be increased to its recommendation.
Dassau said the school board has placed a warrant article on the March ballot to eliminate the budget committee. “This has to stop,” he said.
However, Moser said the budget committee is doing the best it can for Winchester residents.
“Cuts in the school will be hard on the kids, but if parents can’t pay their taxes, that will be just as hard on the kids,” Moser said.
The budget committee researched the district’s finances and consulted outside authorities, partly because of a lack of trust in the school board and mostly so the committee could make an informed recommendation, Moser said.
Moser said earlier this month that the budget committee was frustrated by a lack of information from the school board, and that because of this missing information did not set a budget figure in time for the public hearing.
As of this morning, Moser had yet to see Dassau’s letter stating the board will file suit.
“What they do, I have no control over,” he said. “But they are not happy. That much is clear.”