ORANGE — With talks of a potential property tax override, underfunded special education and high school costs, Orange is making a plea to the state for more money.
The Orange Selectboard, Finance Committee and Elementary School Committee have now all endorsed an effort, headed by Finance Committee member Kathy Reinig, to pressure the state to give more money to rural schools and schools with a high percentage of special education students. Orange is both.
Reinig has presented to the Selectboard her assessment that the town’s elementary schools are grossly underfunded, including in the area of special education by about $3.5 million.
The plan is to lobby for extra state aid that would be given out over five years. In year one, Orange would ask for about $700,000 more for its elementary schools and $600,000 more for the Ralph C. Mahar Regional School. It would slowly close the gap between what Orange gets and what it actually needs, Reinig said.
“We really need to fight for this,” Reinig said.
Reinig has been contacting local representatives, including state Sens. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton, and state Rep. SusannahWhipps, I-Athol, and has collected oral and written endorsements from municipal bodies. She said she is planning to go to the Statehouse for the House Ways and Means Committee hearing on Monday to lobby on behalf of the town if possible.
“Across the entire state, Chapter 70 is underfunded,” Reinig said, adding that a 2015 study from the state’s Foundation Budget Review Commission showed schools statewide were underfunded by more than $1 billion.