First, I want to fully acknowledge that we are in the midst of economic turmoil that we have not endured as a nation since the Great Depression. Most individuals find themselves in a difficult financial situation. Taxpayers are often faced with paying more taxes while their incomes are shrinking and costs continuing to rise. Unfortunately, the school district finds itself in the same situation - shrinking or barely maintaining funding while enduring increasing costs.
Knowing the financial difficulties of our communities and all of the departments in our member towns, the district has made significant cuts each year since the beginning of the economic downturn. These cuts were made to avoid and/or minimize the impact on the towns and the individual taxpayer. Despite numerous cost saving measures and cuts to personnel and programs over the years, the district can no longer maintain the level of services provided to students in FY12 without additional support from the community.
While there are many details surrounding the complex issue of school funding and spending, I'd like to share two pieces of information: 1.) history of assessments to the towns, and 2.) history of cost saving measures implemented by the district since the economic downturn.
History of Assessments to Member Towns:
*FY10 *% Change FY10 To FY11 * FY11 * % Change FY11 To FY12 * FY12
ASHBY -- $ 2,623,849/-0.6%/ $2,608,063/0.1%/ $2,611,900
PEPPERELL -- $
TOWNSEND -- $ 8,136,157/-2.1%/ $ 7,967,836/-0.8%/$ 7,907,428
Total -- $20,958,714/-0.8%/$20,792,016/0.8%/$20,953,043
History of Cost Saving Measures:
Received multiple-year salary concessions by all employee groups
Changed health benefits for all employees
Instituted Health Insurance Opt Out Program
Consolidated school buildings (reducing administrators & other positions)
Increased class sizes (by reducing classroom teachers)
Instituted athletic/marching band user fees (middle school/high school)
Received rental income for use of school facilities
Switched burners from oil to gas / Installed energy efficient lighting
Consolidated school bus routes (fewer buses)
Shared services of Supt. & Executive Secretary with another school district
Privatized cafeteria services
Hired new special education transportation provider
Developed in-house special education programs to reduce out-of-district tuitions
Reduced district work force through layoff or attrition (including administrators)
If the override does not pass on August 28th, the district will need to continue operating using the same amount of funding it received last year causing a decrease in services for students.
Should this override on August 28th fail, the school committee must then follow the process established by MA law (MGL Chapter 71, Section 16b & 603CMR 41.07) and submit a third budget for consideration by the three member towns. If a budget is not approved by December 1st, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) will establish the final budget and assume fiscal responsibility of the school district. The towns would then be required to pay the resulting assessment without taxpayer approval.
For additional information, please visit the district's website: www.nmrsd.org
Please consider this situation carefully and vote accordingly. Please consider the constraints the district is working under and the history of the district being fiscally conservative during very difficult times. I would be grateful for your support.
Chair, NMRSD School Committee