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.
These comments by Northborough’s Sartori are a bad joke.
Northborough insists on having us subsidize their students by using a State optional formula that gives them credit as the less wealthy of the two communities, so that we pay more than our pro-rata share based on student population. In addition they are suing us for more than $1 million to have this advantageous formula retroactively applied to the construction costs of the school, (rather than applying the terms of the deal that they agreed to). Now they say that they would really like to spend more but for the fact that Southborough can’t afford it.
If they want to spend more, but feel constrained by us, there is a simple solution under which they can put their money where their mouth is. They simply agree at their Town meeting to use the student population ratio as the sole determinate of the operating cost ratio, as stipulated in the Regional Agreement. This would immediately allow the Algonquin school budget to increase without Southborough spending another dime, and be in complete conformity with the Regional Agreement and governing State Law. They have consistently refused to do this because they can exploit the law to get us to pay for the education of some of their students.
You would think that if one Town was insisting another Town pay for the education of some of its high school students it would not then have the gall to complain about the finances of their benefactor.
I completely agree with you on this one.
Southborough residents have been chiseled, slimed, and weaseled by the self-selected and self-enriching path chosen by Northborough for their share of school funding. And it is Southborough that has played the fall guy and financier for this ridiculous Northborough charade and selective retention.
Kind of reminds me loud-mouthed ingrates who stiff someone for the dinner tab, and then have the unparalleled cojones to complain about the venue, neighborhood, or lack of after-dinner ports and cordials.
Good Christ. What Ms. Sartori needs more than anything is a hefty steeping mug of Shut-The-Hell-Up, and a sharper focus on legally abiding to contracts into which she and Northborough residents engage.
If Northborough succeeds in getting the Regional Agreement’s capital allocation formula overturned, the entire compromise in the agreement should revert to the status quo ante – which would mean that capital costs should be allocated by the ratio of students at the time the contract to renovate was signed, not adjusted every year. Effective retroactively.
I’m sorry – I didn’t attend the meeting, so I’m wondering how we can get more information about enrollments. Why are “more Southborough students …expected to attend Algonquin next year”? 8th graders haven’t even all heard about acceptances at private schools yet. Some won’t know until March. Will the numbers be revisited then? I only ask because my own son will be attending a private school, along with quite a few other kids from Southborough. And that’s just a single private school. And that’s not even counting kids who might transfer out of Algonquin, as happens each year.
There is a minor error in the story that is triggering your very good question. Next year’s Algonquin assessment is not based at all on the forecast enrollment for next year, but in part on the actual measured enrollment as of October 2010. This is the way it always has been, retrospective, not forecast.
Sorry about that – thanks for the correction, John.
John, I appreciate the clarification. According to Dr. Gobron, historically the percentage of Southborough 8th graders choosing Algonquin was about 75%. My understanding is that in the last couple of years, possibly owing to the state of the economy, the percentage has risen to about 85%. Just to be clear, what happens if the number drops to 75% again this year? The assessment changes next year?
There’s another possible reason for this increase in Southborough 8th graders attending ARHS. When the ARHS rebuilding project began about 8 (?) years ago, I know of 5 families in town who decided to send their children to private schools to avoid what they considered drawbacks from attending a school undergling renovations. (Remember, there were well publicized issues with the contractor and delays.) These families decided to send their younger children to ARHS once the construction completed.
Just a thought. It is a terrific school.
I agree this is probably another factor. Algonquin’s a great school for many kids.
I agree that Algonquin is a terrific school. My children benefited immensely from it.
I believe the 8th grade retention rate, if I recall Dr. Gobron talk, was over 90%. Because we work on a moving average we can expect to see our share of the Algonquin budget rise over the next few years as this increase works its way into the moving average.
I’m wondering about the impact of one other addition to our educational landscape – public charter schools. In the past, middle schoolers either attended the local middle school or went to private schools, if parents deemed them a better fit. A few years ago, AMSA started up, and immediately district middle schoolers started applying. While our district is reimbursed to a degree for three years, after that, reimbursement stops. If memory serves correctly, last year 22 Southborough middle school students attended AMSA. I believe that the district also had students at McAuliffe in Framingham and Abby Kelley in Worcester.
Is there any follow up on these students? I know that some return to district, but that many others either go to privates or stay at their charter school, if it goes through Grade 12, as AMSA does. These students wouldn’t be part of the enrollment projections, would they? This could account for some of the increase we see in local numbers going to Algonquin, as these students have already left the district after 5th grade.
That is correct. Although under the current cost allocation system the enrollment is only one part of the cost sharing formula, the other being the State’s assessment of each Town’s wealth and income indicators, the only enrollment that data that counts is that measured in the prior October and changes annually.