WILBRAHAM — During the May 21 joint meeting of the Wilbraham Finance Committee, Wilbraham Select Board and Hampden-Wilbraham Regional School Committee, the groups agreed to compromise following a disagreement over the budget recommendation for HWRSD.

At this meeting, the Finance Committee voted to increase the HWRSD’s budget allocation by $40,000 under the agreement that the School Committee would make adjustments to cover the remaining gap of $27,671. While the School Committee did not vote at the meeting, members informally stated that a majority of the body would vote for the compromise at a future meeting.

The discrepancy first occurred on March 21 when, in separate meetings, the Finance Committee voted and approved a budget total for the district that was lower than the budget approved by the HWRSD.

As a result of the differing votes, the budget total listed for HWRSD on Wilbraham’s Town Meeting warrant released May 7 reflected a number that was $67,671 lower than the number set by the HWRSD, as described in the warrant document.

On May 21, each committee took time to explain their perspective on the situation, highlighting the reasons behind their actions. Within the Finance Committee, Chair Kevin Hanks emphasized that the budget reduction was not intended to target one specific program but was a result of the committee’s work to balance the town’s 45 budgets. He later stated that HWRSD represented 56% of the total budget but 58% of the budget increase.

Likewise, member Jeff Farnsworth said that the committee didn’t want to cut any budget within the town but that it was the role of the Finance Committee to fairly allot the town’s available funds.

Within the School Committee, Sean Kennedy thanked the Finance Committee for its work for Wilbraham and explained that he was looking to avoid budget cuts because they often directly impact students and staff. Bill Bontempi emphasized that the district had used all of its reserve funds for this budget, which put the district in an “incredibly vulnerable position.”

Following the verbal agreement, the Finance Committee voted to pull the $40,000 from funds previously allotted for stabilization in order to increase the HWRSD’s allotment, Hanks confirmed.

While a date has not yet been set, the School Committee is expected to hold a meeting to formally vote for the agreement as well as decide where the funds will be pulled. During HWRSD’s May 13 meeting, Superintendent John Provost proposed purchasing 100 fewer Chromebooks and utilizing these funds for to meet the gap. He stated that Chromebooks from graduating students could be provided to students who would not receive a new Chromebook. However, a formal decision was not made at the meeting.

lmason@thereminder.com | + posts