Groton Herald Article – SC Increase Budget Against…

Enjoying my coffee this morning and read the Groton Herald article titled – School Committee Increased Budget Against Advice of Superintendent, Selectman & Dunstable Town Accountant.

I wanted to clarify some additional facts that both Groton & Dunstable taxpayers should be aware of.
  • The Needs Assessment, now being referred to as “Needs Assessment 2.0” is a living document, meaning our school enrollment changes, our school demographic changes and there will be new state mandates periodically.  All these factors change the current needs of our district, we will have resources that are still needed, some needs may have been filled, and some may no longer be needed.
  • After Groton failed to pass the two overrides the School Committee came to a consensus to fund the needs of our schools over the course of five years. This was as far back as our meetings in July 2016.  This should not be surprised to anyone; our override failed, however, the needs of our schools did not disappear. It should not be a surprise that the School Committee was looking to include additional funding to be used towards the Needs Assessment in our FY18 budget or the next several future budget cycles.  
  • The School Committee’s original budget guidance requested capital items to be outside the operation budget, however, through collaboration they voted to include them as that was the majority of feedback received from both towns and through conversations between the Interim Superintendent, Town Manager, and Town Advisor. This was a preference mainly out of concerned that if these items were taken out of the School Budget, it might be perceived that they are optional versus necessary capital items and therefore not pass at Town Meeting through warrant articles.
  • The budget guidance approved by the School Committee for the Superintendent included a list of priorities that equated to approximately $500,000 of the Needs Assessment for FY18.  Again, it should be no surprise that the School Committee was looking to fund some if not all of these priorities.
  • The Interim Supt. – Bill Ryan NEVER said he could fund all six priority through reorganization, reallocation or additional savings.  He was very clear at the Budget & Finance Meeting when he expressed that he is confident he could fund some of them but would not guarantee all of them when I asked him that question and had never suggested otherwise.  If this were the case, he would have simply included them in the budget because he is a straight shooter and doesn’t commit to anything he is not sure he can do.
  • The School Committee included the first 3 of the six priority items in our FY18 budget, leaving the remaining three items for the Interim Supt. To try to cover through reorganization, reallocation, and additional savings.
  • Dunstable passed an override allowed them to raise their levy by approximately $475,000, however, chose to only collect approximately $324,562 of that money therefore not capturing roughly $150,438 of the revenue from their taxpayers in FY17.
  • Dunstable has not yet clarified exactly what amount of money was slated for the schools and what was for municipal in the override. Everyone that I have spoken with has stated that it was a complete joint override which leads me to believe that the total was to be allocated – 50% schools/50% municipal which would equate to $237,500 for each.
  • The schools did NOT receive $237,500 of this money in FY17 because the District was not able to assess Dunstable due to the failed override in Groton. Using $237,500 as a figure slated for the schools less the $150,438 of revenue they chose not to collect, I calculate that there is approximate $87,062 slated for the schools that been spent or currently in Free Cash.
  • The school budget is a zero based budget therefore including the capital items by way of collaboration does not artificially increase our budget for future budget cycles.  That is not true and a simple misconception that stems from not being familiar with how the school budget is formulated.  As I mentioned at the meeting, the School Committee does not expect to automatically include the $375,000 in next year’s budget, but the town should also know that the School Committee is committed to funding the needs of our schools over the next five years. Not forecasting for that in our Town’s future budgets isn’t proper budgeting.
  • Per the MA Department of Revenue – Dunstable has $284,617 in Certified Free Cash, $324,066 Stabilization Fund, $37,423 in their Overlay Reserve and have revenues expected to be $11,066,176 in FY17 which includes a Net Growth of 84,475. {CLICK HERE FOR REPORT}

website: https://dlsgateway.dor.state.ma.us/DLSReports/DLSReportViewer.aspx?ReportName=At_A_Glance&ReportTitle=At%20A%20Glance

Over the next couple of weeks, the SC will be meeting with Dunstable in an effort to understand financial restraints, various funding mechanisms and both municipal and school needs.  As reported in the Groton Herald the School Budget can not go up. However, there is a possibility that the School Committee be asked to reduce or restructure the budget at our joint meetings.

Please email your elected officials and tell them how you want your money spent and what are your priorities.
Groton-Dunstable School Committee:  http://gdrsd.org/school-committee/