Select board considers proposal for education fund

At their last meeting, the Holden Board of Selectmen considered a proposal to establish a revolving fund for education. Any unspent monies from the Wachusett Regional School District budget would be reallocated to this new fund.

The idea for the fund was proposed by the Education Options Review Committee. The committee is tasked with reviewing the current state of Holden’s educational funding, staffing and quality in the Wachusett Regional School District and providing the best educational opportunities available.

Education Options Review Committee member Susan Sullivan said the committee has explored several different options and believes this idea could provide the town with seed money for educational purposes.

“As you probably are aware, our hands are tied a lot because of the way the regional agreement is worded…for the last seven years the school committee had to reduce the budget because certain towns didn’t agree and they need four out of five towns to approve the budget so a lesser amount has been automatically adopted without the need of a Town Meeting,” Sullivan told the select board. “If there was a mechanism in place if that budget is lower, it automatically would go into this stabilization/ reserve fund.”

Sullivan was hopeful the discussion on the matter could be brought forward at Town Meeting in May, but selectboard members were hesitant to advise this before properly vetting the idea through town officials.

Town Manager Peter Lukes said he believes the board would benefit from knowing more because they are stepping into a very gray area. “It is not that easy and we are limited in what we can do,” said Lukes.

Town Counsel Stephen Madaus agreed and said that to move forward, the proposal would require “artful drafting.”

“Funds appropriated for educational purposes are entirely within the jurisdiction of the school committee and are also subject to the regional agreement,” said Madaus.

“I think it is a very slippery slope changing the way those funds are used based off of our Town Meeting floor,” added selectboard member Jeremy Kurtz.

Vice chair of the select board and Education Options Review Committee member Tim Ethier said he understands the concerns and senses that there isn’t support to form a warrant article for this year but asked if it would be possible for town counsel to help the committee with the language of the proposal.

Chairman of the board Anthony Renzoni recommended adding the development of the fund to the board’s list of fiscal 2018 goals. Sullivan said the committee will finish its report and the board agreed to revisit the idea after Town Meeting.

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