The Regional School Committee unanimously approved a $17.6M budget at their meeting on Wednesday night. While the budget is a slim 0.55% increase over last year, Southborough’s portion of the bill will increase by nearly $400K — a 6.87% increase over last year.
When the total budget will increase by less than $100K, how is it Southborough will end up paying $400K more? In a presentation to the school committee, Superintendent Charles Gobron pointed to three main factors.
First, the district received $150K less in state funding last year than was expected. Second, significantly less money — to the tune of $250K — was pulled from the district’s Excess and Deficiency (E&D) account, which is similar to a free cash fund. Finally, interest accumulated over the course of the year was on the low side.
Combined with the 0.55% budget increase, an additional $520K has to be divided between the two towns this year. A number of factors contribute to how the assessment for each town is calculated — you can see more details in Gobron’s presentation here — but in the end Southborough’s share will increase by 6.87% while Northborough’s share will increase by 1.57%.
Southborough’s share increased more significantly than Northborough’s in part because more Southborough students are expected to attend Algonquin next year. A projected 0.69% increase in enrollment added about $100K to Southborough’s assessment.
Northborough isn’t in the budget crunch Southborough is, and school committee members are openly worried about how the budget will go over with Southborough voters. From the Metrowest Daily News:
(Northborough School Committee member Susan Sartori) lamented that the cuts might not be as deep if Southborough’s finances were more stable.
“This is not what we’d like the budget to be,” she said. “Are we comfortable coming in as low as this?” she asked, noting that Northborough, which isn’t facing a deficit, would be in a position to afford more if Southborough could.
“We’re leaving money on the table, is what I’m saying,” Sartori said.
Gobron said that although he wished the budget was higher, there’s not much that can be done.
“Our problem, as you know, is Southborough,” he said, adding that passing the approved budget alone “is going to be a battle.”
While Southborough will be hit with a larger assessment, Gobron said the total increase in the budget is small. “We are operating for the second year with hardly any actual budget increase,” he said in an email.
Last year the regional budget increased by 0.66% compared to this year’s 0.55% increase.