Rowley Outnumbered on Triton Budget

Tuesday May 23, 2023

TRITON REGIONAL SCHOOL DISTRICT — Rowley got outvoted last week at the Salisbury Town Meeting, which approved that town’s $15 million assessment next year for the Triton Regional School District budget.
Rowley, which narrowly approved a cut in its assessment for Triton at its Town Meeting, may now have to hold a second Town Meeting to approve the full assessment.
The three towns — Newbury, as well as Rowley and Salisbury — are assessed a portion of the budget each year in the regional school formula. The unpopular formula is based on several factors, notably the number of students each town sends to the schools.
Rowley Town Meeting members voted by a margin of four votes to cut its assessment for next year by 4 percent or $502,568. Because two of the three towns approved the school budget, Rowley will now have to pay its full assessment, about $12.6 million.
In recent years, it has been the town of Salisbury that has been required to pay more of the Triton Regional School District budget, while the towns of Newbury and Rowley got off a bit easier.
The number of students from Rowley increased by 34. Newbury went down 10 students, and Salisbury went down by four students.
Nerissa Wallen, one of Rowley’s three representatives on the Triton school committee, agreed that Rowley’s assessment from Triton “is a high number.”
She blamed the state’s Chapter 70 formula, which “the district has no control over.” Chapter 70 establishes the minimum spending requirements that each town in a school district must meet based on factors that include enrollment numbers.
Another factor is “the municipal revenue growth factor,” a formula which, she said, calculates that the town can afford to pay more toward the Triton budget “because expensive homes are being built in Rowley,” and the town’s tax base will increase by the value of those homes.
None of the towns like the current formula for the assessments. Neil Harrington, the Salisbury Town Manager, said the current formula allows for sharp increases that none of the towns like.
To change the formula, all three towns must agree on a new method of making annual assessments. In the past, the towns have not reached a consensus, Harrington said.
Superintendent Brian Forget said he is not happy with the increases in spending, but denied an accusation that the district was adding 12 new staff members. He said the budget calls for 3.5 new staff members, which are critical to operations, he said.
He also said the budget has levelled the purchase of supplies, which worries him, given the increase in inflation of all items the school buys.

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