Hopedale Select Board strategizes next steps regarding BVT
Town officials hope to start with budget cap
By Theresa Knapp
In October, the Hopedale Select Board led a “BVT Summit” with other member towns of the Blackstone Valley Regional Vocational Technical High School. In December, the Board had a follow-up discussion to set next steps.
At its meeting on Dec. 11, Town Administrator Mitch Ruscitti said a working group had been formed with “unelected officials” from the 13 towns that feed into the BVT school district.
Select Board member Scott Savage urged the board to create a strategy and provide guidance for Ruscitti while he is in those conversations. He said the town needs to have a clear proposal in the very near future, and said the board was being “lackadaisical” in its approach to the issue.
“We can’t drag our feet, we should have been here, meeting after the BVT Summit, having these conversations. And, like other things, we’re going to run out of time, and BVT’s going to come forward with a $10 million capital investment that’s going to pass and now we’re going to be on the hook for it because we dragged out feet.”
Ideally, town officials would like to reopen the BVT charter and make several changes, but that would take the approval of all 13 member towns.
Savage said, “We don’t have a set on a budget gap. We don’t have an agreement that we want to cap enrollment. We don’t have a plan for capital proposals that BVT should be submitting. We don’t have an opinion on whether it should be lottery-based or merit-based. We want to send [Town Administrator] Mitch to do a negotiation with other town administrators of 12 or 13 communities and we have no direction to give him…and it’s not Mitch’s responsibility to come up with what us, as a Select Board, feel like are our goals and desires of what BVT should be operating like.”
Select Board Chair Glenda Hazard said the budget cap should be the town’s highest priority.
Ruscitti said, “The budget is something we can move on now and get a good head start on. The other issues we can work on but we’re not going to have resolution to those immediately…Getting consensus for this is going to be difficult and time-consuming. I think the lowest hanging fruit right now is the budget cap. Some of the other issues that include advocacy, like the lottery proposition - if the board decides to go that route - is going to take a good deal of time and finagling for communities to sign on and, even then, you have boards that are going to be in favor and boards that are not.”
Savage said, “This board needs to say, ‘These are the five things we want Mitch to talk to everyone else specifically,’ and go get us a response. This is why we’re going to fail at this attempt to get these changes…All I’m asking us to do is present our positions and we won’t do it.”
Stock agreed the board should devise a plan to get BVT to halt or revisit their budget because, in the past, BVT always receives the budget it requests. “It can’t be that way any more because it’s just not fair to the other communities. We have to make budget decisions that fit their [BVT’s] needs and their requests, instead of the other way around.”
After a lengthy conversation, the board set a meeting for Dec. 20 for the sole purpose of discussing this issue.
For more reporting on the October BVT Summit, visit bit.ly/HopedaleBVTsummit.