The school committee has voted on a budget for Mt. Greylock Regional High School (attended by students from Williamstown and Lanesboro) and it looks like there may be trouble. Long time readers will recall that the College’s relationship with the local high school is a favorite topic on ephblog.

The Eagle reports that:

With frequent reminders that the figure represents only the maximum they would ask for, the Mount Greylock Regional School Committee voted 5-1 last night to approve a $9.2 million budget for fiscal 2005, roughly 12.8 percent over the current year’s spending.

The adopted budget would drastically raise the assessments to the towns of Williamstown and Lanesboro, and force Proposition 2 1/2 override votes in both towns.

For those outside of Massachusetts, an Proposition 2 1/2 override refers to the fact that local property taxes are capped by the state constitution unless the local community votes to override the cap.

The budget would absorb the cost of 5.9 teaching positions that were funded this year by a grant from Williams College and funds raised by the Greylock Assistance Project. It also restores 3.6 teaching positions lost in fiscal 2003, as well as midlevel administration positions.

Note that the $250,000 gift that the College made last year was pitched as helping with a, presumably temporary, “budget crisis.”

But committee member Ralph Bradburd pointed out that through the budget process, members had removed every item they possibly could. “I don’t want to leave people with the impression this is some sky-high number and we’ll be coming back for less,” he said.

Tinkham said he has seen no support in Lanesboro for a Proposition 2 1/2 override. He also said Williamstown Town Manager Peter Fohlin has told the committee that any increased funding over this year would require an override.

Bradburd said he thinks that opinions in the town may change when residents think about the issue. “I think when people learn what it will mean to fail to maintain the excellence of the school, they may very well change their minds,” he said, noting that high-quality schools positively affect property values in the towns.

Lanesboro Town Administrator Paul Boudreau, speaking from the audience, was skeptical. “Does anyone think this budget will become reality?” he asked.

Although the editors of Scattershot think that Williams students ought to spend more time thinking about national issues, I often think that they would learn more closer to home. The politics of your local school board are as interesting, complex and varied as the politics of the Senate.

It seems clear that some residents of Williamstown, like Professor of Economics Ralph Bradburd, think that the community should spend around $9 million per year on the local high school. Other residents think a figure closer to $8 million would be more appropriate. It appears that the latter are a majority of the voters in the town.

But everyone agrees that the ideal scenario would be for local taxes to pay for $8 million while Williams College — or some similarly generous sugar daddy — picks up the tab for the rest.

Mount Greylock students in attendance spoke up for the proposed budget. Gideon Bradburd said the proposal “reverses the death spiral that started last year.”

No doubt there are a lot of Bradburds in Williamstown, but would Gideon be the son of Ralph? Again, Ralph Bradburd and Morty Schapiro are good and honorable men (and both former professors of mine), but the conflict of interest between what is best for their children and what is best for Williams is tough to ignore.

The School Committee had explored an alternative at its March 10 meeting, when Piechota presented members with a list of cuts that would be necessary if the district ran on $8.2 million — the amount the district budgeted for fiscal 2004.

Such funding would force cuts of 13 teachers and athletic, professional development and library staff, and would close the library to students two days a week, Piechota said. It could also increase some class sizes to 30 or more students, with the average class numbering between 24 and 26 students.

I’ll stand by my prediction that the fix is in. The College will step in with another $250,000 or so “cash infusion” to help out with the high school’s budget “crisis”.

You read it here first.

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