Financial Questions Remain for Yarmouth After Regional School Vote

YARMOUTH – The narrow victory for a new intermediate school in the Dennis-Yarmouth District has put Yarmouth in a precarious financial position.

Under regional school agreements, all towns in a district must put up their share for a capital project even if one of the towns votes against the plan.

The aggregate vote of all communities in the district is what makes the final decision.

Yarmouth Selectman Mike Stone said he was disappointed in the district-wide vote for the new school.

“I think the people of Yarmouth have shown that they do not favor this school,” Stone said.

“And I think they know that the regional school agreement is archaic and needs to be revised and it’s not a fair deal for the town of Yarmouth.”

In Yarmouth, voters not only rejected the school plan itself, they also rejected a second question that would have funded their share through a debt exclusion.

Despite that, Yarmouth will still be on the hook for its share of the nearly $117 million school, minus the state reimbursement share.

At this point, Yarmouth voters will now face another election in the spring where they’ll be asked to approve a debt exclusion to pay for the school.

“Going forward we are going to have to see if the residents of the town of Yarmouth will, by the way of ballot, fund this obligation by a debt exclusion,” Stone said.

“Otherwise there will be dramatic cuts in essential services.”

If that vote fails again, the town’s only option may be to fund their share of the project from the operating budget.

That could result in massive cuts to services in Yarmouth, including police, fire, and public works, along with other departments.

Selectman Tracy Post said the town now needs voters to fund the debt exclusion.

“It’s something now we are obligated to do and it would be very detrimental to our overall town operation if we can’t get the debt exclusion passed at this time,” Post said.

“Ultimately the bill has to be paid and we have to cut services to be able to do it.”

Post said officials haven’t yet looked at what the exact cuts would be, but said it would be significant.

Stone said when it comes to cuts in services it would have to come from where most of the money is spent.

“That would be police, fire and DPW because that’s where the big pieces of the budget are,” Stone said.

The vote was 1,955 to 1,502 against in Yarmouth and 1,361 to 876 in favor in Dennis.

The plan calls for closing the Mattacheese Middle School in Yarmouth and the Nathaniel H. Wixon Innovation School in Dennis.

The new school would be located in Yarmouth next to the Station Avenue Elementary School.

The debate over the proposal became contentious in recent weeks, with some opponents criticizing the decision by the regional school committee to bypass town meeting.

Most members of the Yarmouth Board of Selectmen and the Yarmouth and Dennis finance committees went on record opposing the plan.

Supporters said it was critical to approve the project now as the state school building authority had already approved a 57 percent reimbursement for the total cost to the district.

Many in Yarmouth who opposed the project remain concerned about the lack of a new regional school agreement.

They say the current arrangement benefits Dennis at the expense of Yarmouth taxpayers.

If the vote had failed, the district would have had 120 days to come up with a new plan or risk losing the state reimbursement altogether.

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