Residents of Shutesbury reply on school formula
We Shutesbury citizens are responding to the article of “Budget still contentious for Amherst-Pelham Regional Schools” (Dec. 23) wherein a Leverett town official questions Shutesbury’s justification for wishing to change the long-standing regional school funding agreement.
The Amherst-Pelham-Leverett-Shutesbury district has for many years opted to use its own alternate formula to apportion regional school costs, an arrangement all four towns must annually agree on. It has come to the attention of Shutesbury residents and town officials that this formula has grossly disfavored our town for quite some time. The added costs are now in the range of $200,000 and up per year for Shutesbury, and about $1.5 million from fiscal 2010 to present.
By comparison, there is the state’s default formula, used by the majority (72 percent) of regional school districts in the commonwealth. It’s called the “statutory formula” because it was developed pursuant the Massachusetts Education Reform Act of 1993. This socially progressive legislation intended to more fairly distribute education costs among towns in a regional district based on ability to pay.
The statutory formula takes into account various wealth factors of member towns, such as assessed value of properties and per capita incomes, to arrive at a fair, but not necessarily equal, assessment for each student.
Shutesbury, with the lowest assessed values and incomes, would rightly benefit from using the statutory formula. After three years of negotiations and an apparent stalemate, if an interim compromise cannot quickly be reached with the other towns, Shutesbury should consider budget planning based on the amount required under the statutory formula.
Jeffrey R. Lacy
The letter also was signed by 11 other residents of Shutesbury.