What if Southborough schools had to cut $500K from their budget?

That was one question asked last night as the Board of Selectmen, Advisory Committee, and K-8 School Committee met jointly to review the school’s proposed $17M budget.

The Metrowest Daily News reports Superintendent Charles Gobron wouldn’t say exactly what cuts would have to be made, but school committee member Marybeth Strickland said it would likely hit the teacher salary line item hardest.

Teacher salaries were a big focus of last night’s discussion according to the MWDN, as selectmen, Advisory Committee members, and members of the public urged school officials to take another look at their spending.

“You just have to start coming up with options other than more spending,” (Selectman John Rooney) said. “People have got to be able to (afford) to live here in order to send their children to school.”

The district is currently renegotiating its contract with the teachers union. Gobron said he hopes to have that wrapped up in the next few weeks. The budget for FY2012 shows an estimated 4.24 percent increase in the teacher salary line item.

You can read more details about last night’s meeting in this article in the MWDN. If you want to take a look at the school budget yourself, you’ll find links to it in this post.

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Al Hamilton
13 years ago

I attended the budget summit last night. First, I want to congratulate the K-8 Schools and Dr. Gobron for presenting a voted on budget by the mandated deadline. K-8 budgets have been habitually late and this is a real improvement in performance.

The presentations were interesting but the execution was poor. It would be nice if you could make the technology work well when making a pitch about the value of technology. We spend a lot of money on technology for our schools and I was left with a very uneasy feeling about how it is being managed. (The actual content with teachers using digital white boards was quite interesting though).

The k-8 schools are looking for an additional $750,000 or perhaps $850,000 there was some confusion (at least in my mind) as to how they were handling the technology component. They were looking to add a teacher to the system. It also appears that k-8 school enrollments will decline again next year. Enrollments have declined every year since 2004. (Recessions/depressions lead to declining fertility so don’t count on increasing enrollments in the next few years) .

John Rooney did some homework and questioned why Southborough’s SPED spending appeared to be significantly higher than comparable communities. There was some question about the accuracy of his figures but no one had better data. I am sure he will dig in and ask again and again until he gets an answer.

Speaker after speaker, many traditional supporters of our schools, spoke about the critical need to control labor costs. Regrettably, they might as well have been speaking Klingon. Their pleas fell on deaf ears. While details of the contract negotiations were not discussed, it was clear that it was business as usual. No consideration of a salary freeze was every put on the table, as the President has imposed on federal workers. It is Steps and Lanes and Raises for All. This is extremely disappointing given that the typical family in Mass. has seen it’s income go down over the last 2 years. The Governor cut the pay of the Legislature to reflect this fact. It is painfully clear that when the administration says “We are all in this together” the words ring hollow.

It was also clear that no serious consideration has been given to evaluating the question of 3 vs 4 schools. I doubt that the administration or the School Committee will ever deal with this question in an open and comprehensive way. A comprehensive answer to this question is the single biggest fiscal question facing our community. I believe that the Advisory Committee, which has full authority in this matter, should name an independent committee to investigate this matter and report on its findings and recommendations. That in turn should inform our budgeting process. I can live with any answer that is the result of detailed and fair analysis.

The reality is that if we use the “Telecoms Money” (which is really your money that you overpaid in taxes over the last 10 years) and make a few reforms we can afford to fund the requested school budgets this year and perhaps next year without a Prop 2.5 override. But it is a house of cards. Eventually, the bill will have to be presented to the voters and it will be a whopper that may not be approved and then we will see major harm done to our education system.

I like Dr. Gobron, he is the best Superintendent that we have had since I have lived in town. There is no question that his heart is in the right place. But, he is a 40 year product of the system and appears constitutionally unable to see that fundamental changes need to be made to protect the viability of our excellent public education in Southborough. The cruel irony is that those who are lobbying the most for a quality education are posing the greatest threat to that education by their lack of fiscal discipline, unwillingness to address hard questions, and inability to say no to the teachers union.

John Rooney
13 years ago

Mr. Hamilton has eloquently identified the problem in his recent post and it is one that requires entire community involvement and understanding. Everyone holds academic excellence and teacher quality as the highest goals in our school system. Achieving these goals was easier in a time of abundant resources, but the environment has changed and we as a town need to recognize that change and create a different model that achieves these goals. What started as a credit crisis a little over two years ago became a recession, and the severity of our economic condition continues to worsen. No individual nor institution has been spared. With respect to our schools, we strive to ensure that our students get the best education we can possibly provide, but we do so without the same level of financial resources heretofore available. To quote Winston Churchill, “Gentlemen we have run out of money. Now we have to think.” That is the reality.

Approximately 70 cents of every taxpayer dollar is entrusted to the school committee to educate our children. That they do an outstanding job is beyond debate. We need them to continue with their course and recognize the town’s inability to continually fuel the salary engine. The school committee needs to understand the state of the town’s financial condition when creating budgets, when evaluating needs, and when negotiating contracts. Without question, teachers are heroes and we want heroes educating our children. Collective bargaining agreements, however, exercise largely unseen influence over how our children are educated. We need to reject provisions that stymie efforts to reward excellence and in its place advance mediocrity. We need to recognize that a teacher’s interest in educating and inspiring our children is different that the interests reflected in collective bargaining agreements which uniformly resist change. Our engine continues to operate but our fuel gauge nears empty and we will run out of gas if the collective bargaining agreement insists on historical precedent.

Change we must. When I posited consideration of the possibility of utilizing the town’s library in place of funding the enormous costs of maintaining the school library, I was met with utter shock and horror. My intent was not to elicit such emotions, but merely an invitation to begin the process of thinking outside the box, which we must. I observed that our SPED accounts for 30% of our K-8 school budget and inquired why are we 10% higher than the state reported average. This is in no way to suggest that special education children should not be given every single service they need. The inquiry was to initiate a discourse to determine if there are ways for us to do business in such a way to better control special education costs without affecting program quality and availability.
And then there is Neary. I believe it needs to be a part of our budget discussion because every resident needs to know where we are going, not just with the FY 2012 school budget, but school budgets in the coming years. Are we to expect a continued request to increase the school budget or does consolidation of schools offer well-deserved tax payer relief? The enrollment can be predicted, and if state predictions are accurate, they will continue to decline. Lets make a decision and move forward. We cannot be myopic and just look at each year as a snapshot. We need to know where we are and where are we going.
Of course, any change, even a change for the better, is always accompanied by drawbacks and discomforts. However, one of the keys to success is often the ability to adapt. If we do not change the way we do business, our taxes will increase year after year and soon we will not recognize the town we so cherish.

John Kendall
13 years ago

“The labor costs just have to flatten,” said Advisory Committee member John Butler. “They cannot go up.”

The teachers need to step up to the the plate. Budgets need to be cut or face layoffs. It’s simple economics……just like me, you can’t spend more than you can afford.

  • © 2024 MySouthborough.com — All rights reserved.