January 27, 2022

Selectman Questions Dighton-Rehoboth Budgets

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Rehoboth Selectman George Solas questioned why the Dighton-Rehoboth Regional School District’s budgets keep going up every year. "Dighton-Rehoboth's expenses have to got to be managed differently, we can't expect to keep increasing and increasing it when population has decreased,” Solas said. “We had 1000 students (in D-R High School) in 2008, I think. Now, we're around 700, I think. With the smaller population, we should be able to inspect that budget even more to understand why these costs are going up when students are going to other schools.”

Solas was frustrated by what he perceived to be a lack of transparency from school department officials. "Being on the school committee was awful trying to figure out what the budget was because I wasn't getting all the (information) all the time," Solas added.

Dighton-Rehoboth School Superintendent Anthony Azar noted Solas had received strategic budget updates regularly and is “either completely confused or is deliberately spreading a narrative that is false.” “Once again Mr. Solas needs to be reminded that the school budget was under the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s (DESE) fiscal oversight for two years,” Azar continued. “In those two years DESE set the budget by December 1 to the assessment that the school committee had projected previously.  The Town of Rehoboth supported the Fy22 budget.  As a former school committee member his only contribution to the Town of Rehoboth in those three years serving on the school committee have been two pending lawsuits.”

The seven count civil lawsuit filed in September by the Town of Rehoboth alleged the School District and School Committee violated the terms of its regional agreement with the Town by undertaking and funding two capital projects costing $15 million which occurred without the approval of Town Meeting. Those funds were used for the purchase and installation of solar arrays and heating and air conditioning in and on the grounds of various schools operated by the district.

In October, attorneys for the School District retaliated by filing seven counterclaims, alleging Rehoboth “knowingly, maliciously, and falsely alleged” that the district is in default of the TD Equipment Finance, Inc. May 2016 contract.

In addition, the attorneys requested a declaratory judgment stating the court has “no authority or jurisdiction to de-regionalize the Dighton-Rehoboth Regional School District.” Solas explained that withdrawing K through 8 from the regional school district was important "because our citizens can inspect how we're spending the money for our students." (“The residents) can inspect how we are spending money at any point in time,” Azar said. “We continue to hear, year after year, the political rhetoric about pulling K through 8 from the regional school district.”

The issue of de-regionalization was to be discussed and voted on at the Fall Town Meeting. The Board of Selectmen decided to cancel the meeting due to the expense of holding the event at Francis Farm. The issue will be placed before the voters at the Spring Town Meeting.

Selectman Michael Deignan said the school department was trying to "jam through 2 new schools in Dighton." “We are in the process of forming a Superintendent Advisory Building Committee which will be addressing the building/campus needs of our school district,” Azar explained. “I am not aware of any plans to build new schools in Dighton.  Mr. Deignan would clearly understand that if the Town of Dighton were to decide to build new schools it would not impact the Rehoboth taxpayer.”

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