Tuesday, January 21, 2014

MERSD Budget – Enrollment the Driving Force

Students are the driving force behind our budget development process, and, as such, Manchester Essex has a reputation of strong academic achievement, high quality faculty, a commitment to small class size and a robust co-curricular program.  These factors have made Manchester Essex a popular place to live and to send children to school! In fact, over the past six years, the Manchester Essex resident student population has grown 24% or 281 students.  This is greater than the current student population of the Essex Elementary school.   At the same time that we have been growing, our student body has also become more diversified in its needs.    According to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, 22.8% or 336 students (the size of the ME Middle School) are identified as “high need.”   A student is designated high need if he or she is identified as low income, ELL (English Language Learner), former ELL, or a student with disabilities.

While our primary mission is to deliver a traditional academic program, as a public school we are a human services provider, responsible for ensuring that all children can access and progress through the curriculum.  Over the past three years, we have worked to manage class size growth, to maintain our robust program of studies, and to introduce programs  that address the changing needs of our students, all while maintaining an average annual increase in our assessment to the towns of 2.0%.   

  Enrollment Growth

  Changing Student Needs

English Not First Language
English Language Learner
Low Income
Free Lunch
Reduced Lunch
Students with Disabilities
High Need Students
2013 is the first year the designation was reported.
  • 22.8% total from DESE eliminates overlap in individual categories above

Enrollment growth and the diversification of the student body are the key factors and challenges that drive our budget development process this year.   To date, the district has been successful at balancing its goal of addressing the impact of increased resident enrollment with the need to maintain a low assessment through a number of measures:  tightly managing budgets, investing Chapter 70 and grant funds in program development to keep tax dollars in district, using reserve funds and internal reductions to close budget gaps after a failed override, and reorganizing to achieve efficiencies. 

Although we continue to seek internal efficiencies in order to maintain class size and program offerings, we have reached a point where the overarching budgetary issues must be addressed.  We encourage you to visit the MERSD Budget page (www.mersd.orgQuick Link: Budget) to review our presentations and to learn more about the goals and the challenges we are facing.  Last week’s Cricket article, MERSD Budget Challenges provided an overview of the obstacles we are facing in the development of the FY15 budget. Through a series of follow-up articles, we intend to provide residents of Essex and Manchester with greater detail on each of the issues so that all will have a clear understanding of our challenges in continuing to provide high quality education services.  
We also hope that you will consider increasing your involvement with the schools.  We welcome your participation and input as we work to make MERSD a world-class district.  A great way to join the conversation and learn about what's going on is to attend a School Committee meeting.   Here’s a look at the topics that will be addressed in the next month.

Tuesday, January 28th
MERMHS Library
Full Business Meeting
  • HS Program Focus – Principal’s Update
  • Budget Workshop  - Closing the Gap
    • Continued Discussion of Fees
Tuesday, February 4th    
Essex Elementary
FY15 Budget Hearing @ Essex Elementary School
  • Elementary Facilities Task Force – Presentation of Findings
  • Budget Presentation to Community Hearing
  • Joint Budget Meeting with Essex & Manchester BOS