SOS Response to Rehoboth BOS Meeting
The Rehoboth Board of Selectmen’s Informational Meeting regarding the July 16th Special Town Meeting was a reminder to Dighton and Rehoboth of what, or who, the real sources of our problems are.
The meeting consisted of a presentation by the Chair of the Finance Committee, Mike Deignan, followed by a Question and Answer session. Throughout Mr. Deignan’s presentation, there were cheers, jeers, shouted interruptions, and subtle snickers from the audience. Mr. Deignan claimed multiple times that his presentation was on behalf of the entire Finance Committee and was not meant to be personal. The presentation consisted of an hour and a half of the Finance Chair discussing the same points he made at the last School Committee meeting when he was asked the Finance Committee’s perspective on the budget crisis going forward.
When the presentation was concluding, Mr. Deignan again offered his four possible solutions to this year’s budget crisis: (1) another 2 ½ Override, (2) an alternative funding source, such as the town’s stabilization fund, (3) cutting the town budget to reallocate funds to the school budget, or (4) approve the school budget as recommended by the Finance Committee. The fourth option has been endorsed by the Finance Committee and Selectmen, which is why the same exact dollar amount that was in the May 13th warrant article regarding the DRRSD FY20 Budget Assessment (which was approved on May 28th) is the same number written in the warrant for the July 16th Special Town Meeting: $18,970,859.
During the Q&A section of the meeting, several residents came forward to ask questions that were mainly reiterations of what had already been said. Several questions were directed at the School Committee, which SC Chair Katherine Cooper came up and answered. The Chair of the Board of Selectmen, Gerry Schwall, who was presiding over the meeting, made sure all questions asked at this meeting had to do directly with the upcoming Special Town Meeting. Mr. Schwall also made sure that once a question was answered, there were to be no follow-up questions and there was to be no debate. During her response, SC Chair Cooper was not allowed to discuss a question she had to Mr. Deignan further after he answered it. Mr. Schwall then, in his capacity of Chairman, proceeded to criticize the School Committee as a whole for their conduct at meetings since the Town Meeting on the 28th of May. “The residents of this town showed up and supported it overwhelmingly, including every member of this board, showed up in favor of that override,” shouted Schwall. “I resent the fact that you come up here and some of you sit in the school committee meetings and constantly bully and harass the fine residents of this town...Next.”
We at Save Our Schools encourage the residents of Dighton and Rehoboth to keep up with the goings-on of town politics. However, if you would like to be educated on an issue having to do with the schools, we encourage you to take your information from the school department. Just like when you have a question related to health, you ask the Board of Health. Or, if you have a cultural question, you would reach out to the Cultural Council. It’s quite disheartening that members of the School Committee were disrespected at this informational meeting to the point where they were not even allowed to speak on their own behalf. To give you a deeper perspective, Mr. Deignan even said out loud at this meeting while answering a citizen’s question “I do not make it a point to watch School Committee meetings.”
We have been asked which of the four solutions given by Mr. Deignan we will be supporting. It has been said many times that Save Our Schools does not support another 2 ½ Override to raise property taxes once again. We will also not be advocating for the funds to be taken from the town’s stabilization fund, as this was rejected by the Town of Rehoboth on May 13th. We respect decisions made on the floor of town meeting. However, we do not support the dollar amount that the Finance Committee has recommended because of the simple fact that it was not approved by the School Committee. If you read through the warrant for the May 13th Annual Town Meeting, you will not find a single instance where the Finance Committee listed a different amount than requested by a department other than the School District’s budget assessment. The amount requested in May was $19,779,701. Therefore, the amount that should have been voted on was $19,779,701. On June 4th, the School Committee approved a lower budget assessment of $19,529,656 for Rehoboth. Therefore, this amount should be voted on July 16th.
There have been violation complaints sent to the Massachusetts State Ethics Commission and the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office regarding the ethical and legal issues in the warrant for the July 16th Special Town Meeting. Despite Mr. Deignan only offering four solutions, we will be endorsing a fifth option. Our endorsement is for this meeting to be postponed contingent on new warrants being mailed out to Rehoboth residents where the amount approved by the School Committee is to be voted on, not the amount recommended by the Finance Committee. That way, we might be able to avoid the moral catastrophe of a tent meeting or the outright shame on these two towns that would come from DESE taking our budget over.
As always, Save Our Schools is available for any questions you may have. We will be at the Selectmen’s Meeting on Monday and the Special Town Meeting on Tuesday with our FAQ sheets and yard signs. At this point in time, if any resident from Dighton would like a “Vote for Education” sign in support of your friends in Rehoboth, please message us for delivery!
It is time for the Rehoboth Board of Selectmen and Finance Committee to come up with or invite solutions to this budget crisis without gutting the School District and playing the blame game. It’s everyone’s fault! Dighton and Rehoboth, town government and school district, old and young. Let’s work together to fix the animosity instead of making it worse.
SOS Leadership Team