Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Impact of MERSD Enrollment Surge on Reserve Funds

The MERSD FY16 budget proposal seeks to correct the impact of substantial enrollment growth on reserve funds and school choice revenue.­ The Manchester Essex resident student population has grown 24% since 2007. This multi-year shift in resident enrollment has increased the cost of our operations and reduced our capacity to accept School Choice students.  As a result, funding from the School Choice program has declined by $475K per year since its high point in 2006.  While Chapter 70 Aid did increase to account for enrollment growth, Chapter 70 covers only a small percentage (12%) of MERSD’s total spending.  Similar to other high performing suburban districts, the large majority of MERSD’s funding comes from local sources. 

Over the past four years, the District’s annual increase in assessment has not kept pace with the rate of enrollment growth.  While enrollment has increased dramatically, assessment increases have averaged only 2.35%, resulting in per pupil assessment rising just 0.2% per year since 2011. Manchester’s assessment per pupil has actually declined.  Simply stated, funding per pupil has not only failed to keep pace with enrollment growth, it has not even kept pace with inflation.

In order to work with our member towns and maintain low assessments during a period of increasing need, MERSD used school reserve funds to maintain the quality of services and offset the cost to the Towns.  As a result the reserve funds are forecast to decline by 49%, putting the district in danger of not having rainy day funds available to address issues with aging building and losing its favorable bond rating.  In addition to depleting the reserve account, MERSD made painful internal reductions to close budget gaps, including cutting custodial staff, not replacing retiring faculty positions, reducing supply budgets, and instituting new and increased student fees.  Passage of the FY16 budget is critical in order to correct the structural revenue problem that has developed from using reserve funds as a source of revenue and in order to maintain excellence in our schools.

For More Information on the MERSD FY16 Budget Proposal, please visit the MERSD Budget Page.

MERSD School Committee & Pamela Beaudoin, Superintendent