May 27, 2010
The school committee, as required by law, approved a revised budget (Version 2.0) for the 2010-2011 school year on Wednesday, May 26. In summary, this budget reduces expenditures by $221,335, increases anticipated revenue by $196,538 and yields a decrease in town assessments of $114,298. With this budget, the towns overall will pay less in town assessments for the 2010-2011 school year than they are paying for the current school year.
These changes to the budget (please see the May 26th budget presentation) are the result of savings from the second transportation bid, changes in health insurance, administrative savings, using contracted services to reduce expenses, factoring in the newest figures on regional transportation reimbursement, and increasing the district’s contribution from the E&D account to reduce town assessments. The changes in town assessments reflect these changes as well as the district’s need to absorb an additional net loss in state funds of $234,644 due to the 4% reduction in local aid in both the House and Senate versions of the state budget. As always, if the state allocates more funding into Chapter 70 aide for Gateway after the budget is ratified by our towns, that additional money would go back to the towns to further reduce school assessments.
These financial changes to the budget do not impact student or district services and essentially maintain projected student services from Version 1.1 of the budget. In summary, Version 2.0 has an overall reduction in the number of staff due to consolidation and retirements; no increases in administrative staffing; no new positions being created (but a number of positions being transformed into different student supports and opportunities); and a wide range of student benefits from consolidating elementary schools including no multiage classrooms, more efficient use of traveling specialists and teachers yielding more time spent directly with students, increased professional development opportunities for staff including increased teacher collaboration, a principal and adjustment counselor for each elementary school, and increased literacy and mathematics support.
For Blandford and Middlefield--who have already approved the budget—there is no need to hold another town meeting; their approval automatically stands without further action in the 45-day window and the assessment they voted will automatically be reduced. For Huntington and Chester, who have not yet voted on the budget, new assessment letters will be sent out and their town meetings will be able to vote on the new budget with lower assessments. Those towns that did not support Version 1.1 of the budget (Montgomery, Russell and Worthington) have 45 days from the school committee’s adoption of the budget to schedule a town meeting and vote on supporting the revised budget. If five towns do not ratify the revised budget, than the cycle starts again with the school committee having 30 days to put a new budget together and the towns having 45 days to vote approval.
As we are now within 45 days of the new fiscal year, if the budget isn’t approved by July 1st then the Commissioner of Education imposes a 1/12th budget based upon the current year’s budget (which is significantly higher than the budget now proposed by the school committee). Towns will pay that appropriated amount until a revised budget passes or the next deadline of December 1st passes—at which time the Commissioner of Education will set the budget for the district and the process of approving a budget ends.
Given the overall reduction in both the budget and town assessments, at the same time the district absorbs another loss of state aid for education while maintaining student services, I am hopeful that five towns will approve and ratify Version 2.0 of the budget.