AMESBURY — When it comes to the struggle to find level services funding for the Amesbury school system in this and in previous years, David Haraske has a simple answer — “The culprit here is the state.”
He’s not alone.
A growing number of residents and local elected officials think the state has fallen well short of its fair share of education costs. Amesbury, for example, has seen its state aid for education increase by only about $350,000 over the past decade, while the cost of providing education has increased by several million dollars during that period. Homeowners have been stuck with the lion’s share of that bill.
Haraske and friend Mike Buetow have been campaigning publicly not only to discuss the issue of inadequate Chapter 70 funding and special education mandates but to try to find an answer to the problem.
The pair have also gone as far as to organize an informal meeting next Wednesday evening at Amesbury’s Lahey Clinic at 7 p.m., which will include three candidates currently running for state Rep. Mike Costello’s seat: Amesbury City Councilors Bob Lavoie and Jim Kelcourse and Newburyport City Councilor Ari Herzog, as well as former Amesbury City Councilor Allen Neale.
“This came about out of this last year’s School Committee meetings where we are struggling with the budgets,” Haraske said. “Amesbury is putting $965,000 in new money into the schools and still has to cut services. Chapter 70 has been flat for 10 years and that has to change.”
Neither Haraske nor Buetow are political novices. Haraske ran for District 6 City Council last year and Buetow acted an an adviser to Mayor Ken Gray during his campaign. Haraske admits that he knows how politically contentious things can get in Carriagetown but hopes the issue itself can bridge some gaps.
“This is designed to be very non-political,” Haraske said. “Amesbury has a very divided political scene, but one thing the community is in unison on is the lack of funds from Chapter 70 over the past 15 years. That has plagued all the administrations, not just the current mayor but Mayor (Thatcher) Kezer, all of whom have tried to do the right thing.”