Tuesday, March 4, 2014

State of the Budget

·       State of the Budget
Over the past two months, the School Committee and district leadership team have worked collaboratively with the towns of Essex and Manchester to refine the numbers and reach a final budget request.   The district is working toward meeting a goal of a 3.5% assessment increase.  We have had to manage our resources creatively and tightly in preparation for the coming fiscal years. This year we had to close a $355,000 budget gap. 

o   Measures to Close the Gap (Budget Cuts)
§ Reduction in force through attrition (2 classroom teacher retirements)
§  Reorganization/outsourcing  of evening custodial Support
§  Across the board 10% reduction to the supplies budget
§  Reduction of summer work (guidance, curriculum planning, and maintenance)
§  Elimination of funding for out-of-state student travel (e.g., athletics and co-curricular competitions)
o   Measures to Close the Gap (Revenue)
§  Open 10 School Choice seats
§  Institute Student Transportation Fee for riders residing less than 1.5 miles from school
§  Increase Athletics fee to maintain current operational budget/user ratio

Budget Drivers & Fiscal Challenges

Enrollment growth and the diversification of the student body are the key factors that drive our budget.  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/she is identified as low income, ELL (English Language Learner), former ELL, or a student with disabilities.   

In addition, we are working to address three funding issues that have an impact on this and future budgets:  (1) declining school choice revenue, (2) a dependency on reserves (i.e., “rainy day” funds), (3) and funding long-term retiree health care liabilities (aka “OPEB” or Other Post-Employment Benefits).  All three will continue to limit the amount of revenue available to support the instructional program in the years ahead.

MERSD has begun to implement a multi-year budgeting strategy to inform and improve the collaborative funding process between MERSD and the towns.  This process is designed to begin the gradual migration away from funding the MERSD budget with reserves, and includes development of a multi-year roadmap for addressing multi-million dollar OPEB obligations.

What You Can Do to Help
Learn more about the process and stay involved!
We encourage you to visit the following sites to read our budget articles, to review our presentations and to learn more about our goals and the challenges we are facing.  

Tuesday, March 4th
MERMHS Library - 7:00pm
Full Business Meeting
  • MS Program Focus
  • FY15 Calendar Review
  • FY 15 Budget Workshop - Continued
  • School Choice Discussion
  • Presentation of OPEB Strategy
Tuesday, March 18th
MERMHS Library - 7:00pm
Full Business Meeting
  • FY15 Calendar Review
  • FY 15 Budget Workshop - Continued

Come to a School Committee Meeting!
A great way to join the conversation and learn about what's going on is to attend a School Committee meeting.   We welcome your participation and input as we work together to make MERSD a world-class district.  Here's a list of our upcoming meetings and topics to be discussed:

Attend a town board meeting!
It is an opportunity for you to learn more about the broader budget process and share your thoughts on school funding and program.

Your vote counts! Support the School Budget at the Annual Town Meeting!
  • Manchester: April 7, 2014 @ 7 pm – Memorial School
  • Essex: May 5, 2014 @ 7 pm – Essex Elementary School