D-R High building

Dighton-Rehoboth High School.

REHOBOTH — With school athletic programs and positions hanging in the balance, town residents are again being asked to override the state tax-limiting law Proposition 2 1/2.

A special town meeting Tuesday night drew a record crowd of 1,025 to Dighton-Rehoboth Regional High School, and Rehoboth residents voted overwhelmingly in favor of asking for a $559,000 budget override.

Voters will decide on the request at a special election, the date of which will be set by selectmen.

Tuesday night’s vote was 838-187 in favor of having an election to decide on the Dighton-Rehoboth Regional School Committee’s request for additional funding. Residents sided with the recommendation of selectmen and the finance committee.

The permanent tax hike would cost the owner of a typical $350,000 home in Rehoboth $120 more a year, increasing their tax bill about 2.3 percent.

This is the second year in a row residents will be asked to override Proposition 2 1/2. Last year, by a vote of 2,236 to 1,737, they approved a $2.1 million override for the schools.

There were few comments from residents at Tuesday’s meeting as town officials briefly presented their case and a call for a vote was quickly called.

Selectmen Chairman Gerald Schwall told voters town officials steadfastly opposed other options to give more money to the schools. Those included dipping into a reserve fund or cutting funding from town departments.

The latter would diminish services for subsequent years, Schwall said.

Going with the election is the fair thing to do, the selectman emphasized, “so every Rehoboth vote can be counted.”

“Everyone will be able to participate” in an election, Schwall said, noting the ability of voting by absentee ballot.

The meeting was delayed an hour as a few hundred voters had to be routed to the gymnasium where a green-tinged video of the proceedings in the auditorium was shown.

Neither location had air conditioning and many residents fanned themselves with the meeting warrant.

Once it began, the session lasted less than an hour, with a lot of that time spent counting votes.

It was a record turnout for a town meeting, eclipsing the previous one of 699 set at the second session of town meeting on May 28. That’s when 471 residents backed the finance committee-recommended, $18.97 million school assessment.

That vote was affirmed at Tuesday’s meeting, with the additional $559,000 contingent on the outcome of the election.

Several students held signs outside the meeting urging voters to support local education.

While layoff notices to a couple dozen teachers and librarians have been rescinded, sports and other extracurricular activities and other positions remain on the chopping block as the school district grapples with a $1 million shortfall.

Nonunion positions facing the ax include assistant superintendent, information technology director, dean of activities and athletics, and facility director.

Seven other staff members who were issued layoff notices likely won’t be rehired because of an anticipated decline in freshman enrollment and license and performance issues, school officials say.

Stephen Peterson can be reached at 508-236-0377.

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