Tuesday, March 28, 2017

MERSD FY18 Budget Overview

The Manchester Essex Regional School District is consistently and proudly among the highest-performing districts in the state.  MERSD is an inclusive school district; as such, we are a collaborative culture that welcomes all members into our learning community.  Recognizing that students share more similarities than differences, our learning community respects each individual’s unique contributions.  It is expected that all adults share the responsibility for providing every student with access to and participation in high quality education. In addition to a robust core curriculum that balances high expectations for student achievement with the needs of the whole child, we offer specialty programming and a variety of twenty-first century learning opportunities, such as:  elementary foreign language; Integrated Pre-Kindergarten; specialized learning programs for students with dyslexia, autism spectrum disorders, and developmental delays;  STEM coursework in coding, engineering, project based environmental studies, FIRST Robotics,  and Authentic Science Research (ASR);  nationally recognized debate and DECCA teams; Project Adventure; award winning arts and music programs; and, state champion athletic teams. 

MERSD continues to provide value to the towns of Essex and Manchester by producing top tier results with a per pupil spending rate that is at the state average and the lowest on Cape Ann. The FY18 operating budget assumes spending growth of $783K, which is 3.3% more than FY17.  On the revenue side, MERSD is expecting non-town revenue growth of 4.1%, as it has increased State Aid estimates slightly to align with current year actual funding.  As a result, the assessment increase to the towns is 3.2% above FY17.  Longer-term, we continue to expect State Aid growth to be below the estimated 3.0-3.5% spending growth rate in our multi-year budget projections.  All of these budget projections are lower than the estimates contained in MERSD’s multi-year operating budget, which MERSD uses to help the two towns plan for the future. 

 MERSD Recognized for Outstanding Student Achievement
MERHS ranked 14th in Boston Magazine Best High Schools edition.
MERHS nationally ranked a Gold Medal School - US News & World Report Best High Schools.
MERHS recognized as a Commendation School by MA Department of Education.

MERSD has also leveraged its improved financial position to secure more favorable interest rates for long-term debt associated with construction of the Middle High School.  After refinancing this debt in the spring of 2016, MERSD will save taxpayers $95-100K annually through 2033, resulting in total taxpayer savings of $1.7 million over the remaining life of the bonds. Charges to the towns for MERSD’s capital budget, which pays for debt service related to construction of the Regional Middle High School, are expected to decline by $48K or 2.2% in FY18, compared to the prior year. These savings are in addition to savings generated by the refinancing referenced above.

Following the one-time revenue correction from taxpayers in FY16, MERSD has committed to keeping annual operating increases within the levy limit for the foreseeable future.  To that end, the FY17 and FY18 budgets are both “level services” or carry forward budgets, which are designed to maintain the same level of program currently in place. While health insurance costs have initially come in significantly higher than estimated, in keeping with past practice, MERSD will look for cost restructuring opportunities and other operational efficiencies to fund the increase in to health care and any needed programmatic investments in order to minimize requests for additional taxpayer funding.  Over the past several years, MERSD has outsourced many operational services in order to generate savings and the need for internal staffing/management, including:  evening custodial services, food service operations and transportation. MERSD has also taken significant steps to address long-term financial liabilities, including the cost of mandated health insurance for retirees (known as Other Post-Employment Benefits or OPEB).  As a result of a collaborative effort with the Manchester Essex Teachers Association, which agreed to migrate staff to less costly plans, MERSD is now on a path to full funding, with $1.2 million budgeted for trust contributions through FY18, funded entirely by savings from employee benefits restructuring.   

For More Information please visit the  MERSD Budget Page.

Submitted by the MERSD School Committee, Pamela Beaudoin, Superintendent  & Avi Urbas, Director of Finance & Operations