While this has come up in other towns, this time it seems DESE is taking it seriously and even taking suggestions on how to fix it.Buckland’s roughly 1,900 residents are actually served by four post offices, each with its own ZIP code: Shelburne Falls (01370), Buckland (01338), Charlemont (01339) and Ashfield (01330). Most of Buckland’s households have the Shelburne Falls ZIP code, and they have smaller homes and incomes than those living in the affluent, upper Buckland and using the 01338 ZIP code.How much money towns are required to spend on education is determined by equalized property values, which the state gets from the Buckland Assessors office, and by the aggregate income of residents, which the state is now getting from only one ZIP code.After attending a recent talk on school financing, Town Administrator Andrea Llamas wrote to DESE School Finance Administrator Roger Hatch, saying it appeared that possibly only the per-capita income for residents of the 01338 area was being used, then extrapolated, to calculate school finance information for the entire town.
Hatch asked if the town has the ability to identify how many Buckland residents use the Shelburne Falls ZIP code. “If so,” he wrote, “that would allow us to weight the different per-capita incomes in proportion to number of residents.” He said he would welcome ideas on how the current estimation method might be improved.
“If that is the case, then it raises serious concerns for Buckland’s minimum contribution calculation, because the majority of households are in the 01370 (Shelburne Falls) area, an area that is more typical of the moderate family residences and incomes of Buckland than the larger and wealthier homes typical of the upper Buckland 01338 area,” Llamas wrote.