Thursday, March 31, 2016

Impact of Article 10 on School Budget Process

At the upcoming Manchester Town Meeting, residents will be voting on an Article that would require all budgets in excess of $500,000 to be passed at the ballot.  If successful, this new process would have a substantial impact on our budget development process and the continued excellence of our schools.  

What would the budget cycle look like under Article 10?
Under the present system, each year the school’s budget is presented to the towns for approval first by the Boards of Selectmen and then at Town Meeting.   This collaborative process has ensured a level of stability and predictability that would be erased by Article 10.   Annual budgeting would run like an override every year.  At a minimum, we would be in full budget campaign mode from August through June, and possibly July. Using last year as an example of time allotment, school district personnel would be spending more than half of their time on budget development, process management, and outreach.  This does not account for managing the impact on education, school culture, and climate that must be considered in the event of a failed budget. 

What happens if the budget doesn’t pass at the ballot? 
Although there is a provision in state law (41.05: Regional School District Budgets) that protects the school should we not have a settled budget by July 1st, it would only ensure that we be level funded from the previous fiscal year – and then only a monthly basis.  Level funding creates a $750,000 deficit requiring program and staff reductions to close the gap.  An unstable budget negatively impacts our reserve fund, bond rating, and most importantly, the school climate in which our children are educated. 

The District prides itself in working collaboratively and positively with the Town boards—all who have a common purpose in mind—delivering excellent services in the most fiscally responsible manner.  Last year, our two member towns worked very hard to put the school district back on firm financial footing.  The impact of Article 10 would put the District back into a cycle of annual cuts that threaten MERSD’s ability to maintain its long-held reputation of excellence. 

MERSD School Committee & Pam Beaudoin Superintendent