Yarmouth Selectmen Vote to Drop Lawsuit Following Settlement Agreement

Dennis-Yarmouth Regional High School.

YARMOUTH – Selectmen in Yarmouth voted last week to drop a lawsuit against the Dennis-Yarmouth Regional School District and Dennis just before a deadline to secure state funding for a proposed new middle school.

The board voted in executive session to terminate the lawsuit, which challenged the method used to approve the new school.

The district put the school to a region-wide vote, bypassing town meetings. The plan passed by just 25 votes, with a majority of Yarmouth voters rejecting the school.

The lawsuit has prevented the district from finalizing an agreement with the Massachusetts School Building Authority to secure $44 million in funding for the $117 million facility.

A Barnstable Superior Court judge dismissed the lawsuit in June and selectmen originally did proceed with an appeal of that decision.

The vote followed a settlement agreement which was signed by the school committee and Dennis Selectmen.

“We believe it is a favorable resolution of a longstanding series of discussions with Dennis,” said Selectman Norm Holcomb.

The settlement agreement says that Dennis will be responsible for 35 percent of the construction costs for the new regional middle school.

Each town pays for capital and operating costs based on the number of students it sends to schools in the region, which is around 30 percent for Dennis and 70 percent for Yarmouth.

It also calls for an update to the regional agreement to split operating costs with a five-year rolling average of foundation enrollment.

Foundation enrollment counts all students in regional schools, along with those who attend a charter school or another public school.

“The terms of the agreement require significant additional contributions from the town of Dennis to our school system,” Holcomb said.

The student population in Dennis is shrinking and is expected to continue that trend for the next several years.

“There is a significant additional burden that the Town of Dennis is assuming under this agreement and there are other features of it that will allow for a smoothing of costs,” Holcomb said.

“As Dennis’ enrollment shrinks over the next few years Yarmouth’s taxpayers will assume an additional burden.”

Holcomb said the smoothing features of the agreement would slow the impact for Yarmouth taxpayers, but not stop it.

Both towns will hold special town meetings in the fall to vote on the agreement.

“I certainly would encourage Yarmouth taxpayers to vote in favor of the agreement,” Holcomb said.

The agreement has been signed by the two towns and the school committee and the parties must sign a stipulation of settlement by early this week.

It is not clear if the agreement reached by selectmen in both towns and the regional school committee will clear the way for the $44 million in funding from the state.

A letter of commitment needed to be signed by the school committee, which included no threat of legal action against the school project, by July 30.

The original deadline was in April before being extended twice to the end of July.

A new lawsuit was filed last week by a pair of Yarmouth residents challenging to process for approving the new school.

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