MWDN: Selectmen ask schools to cut $2M from budget

At their meeting last night, the Board of Selectmen asked the schools to make deep cuts to help minimize the tax increase for residents.

In keeping with their vow to increase taxes as little as possible, selectmen last night proposed a fiscal 2012 budget that would increase taxes by 2 percent at most and require a $2 million cut to the school district.

That would be about a 9 percent decrease to the district’s requested 2012 budget, which, according to a handout at the meeting, is currently $24.37 million.

It would also be $800,000 less than what the schools received in fiscal 2011.

You can read all the details in the Metrowest Daily News.

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Anne Marie Desmond
12 years ago

Where did they come up with the $2 million dollar figure in regard to the school district?
One of the reasons we moved to this town are the great schools here. We have interacted with experienced educators, and administrators– the heart of any school district ! I think it is being short sighted to propose a cut to education, there doesn’t seem to be any fat there to trim. Thank god for SOS and the monies raised to provide funds for various programs at each school now, especially K-8. Do the selectman realize how much parents in this town give in time and money? They should look elsewhere

Al Hamilton
12 years ago

The school budget is about 70% of our spending it dwarfs all other areas of government. For example 2 million is bigger than either the police or fire budgets by a fair amount.

As things stand now, with the cut we would still be looking at a tax increase.

There are a number of things that could be done to make our government more efficient but that would involve making some hard decisions. First and foremost is the question of, in light of declining enrollments, can we operate a quality school system in 3 schools. Second is to hold the line on labor costs. Both would provide substantial relief.

The alternative is to lobby for a very substantial tax increase. It is a fair position to take but it is important to remember that only about 30% of the households in town have children in our school system.

12 years ago

The selectmen are parents of kids in town, kids who use the schools so I think they have an interest here as well. The major issue, as I see it, is that the town has a serious brain block when it comes to defining the term “wants vs needs.”

Perhaps we can have the kids use the Chestnut Hill parcel for which we are all taxed on to go for nature walks, find a red tailed wobbler.

The way of the world right now in both the private and public sector is to do more with less, and 01772 is no exception. When (if) things stabilize we can add more cherries to the sundae.

carrie alpert
12 years ago

not sure where your going to cut in the K-8, maybe combine grades and classes ( the day could be one big sing a long) or maybe the kids could just teach themselves.

carrie alpert
12 years ago

here here Anne Marie! there isn’t any fat to trim–even our school lunches are getting healthier :)

Pat Q
12 years ago

First, can we all promise to stay reasonable here and not start tantruming and screaming “the sky is falling”? Let’s all also remember that this town is dealing with a huge budget gap and a continuing drop in revenue.

Second, The BOS isn’t saying to increase class size to 30 or to rip the textbooks out of our kids hands. The BOS is essentially putting the ball in the court of the School Committee as well as the teachers union and saying you have to do more with less ($800,000 dollars less than they received for fiscal year 2010). Remember, the school committee asked for a 4.3% increase in a time when budgets are not sustainable, federal and state monies are being cut and people are losing their jobs while having to face possible tax increases.

There are alternatives and the school committe as well as the teachers union and Dr. Gobron perhaps need to start treading in those uncomfortably warm waters. Everyone is so quick to point out that we all moved here for the stellar school system and I agree, we did as well. I don’t, however, believe it is all going to fall apart while we tighten our bootstraps for some years. Remember, our neigboring school systems are all facing similar budget woes and decisions. It’s not like we are the only school system facing these issues.

It is uncomfortable for lots of us who have kids in the school system and don’t want to offend the very people who spend 6 hrs. each day with our children. Supporting accountability and belt tightening in the school budget doesn’t and shouldn’t go hand in hand with not appreciating what our teachers do. Let’s keep them separate, shall we? I still have a child in the school system and I was once a teacher. I also, however, realize there is a huge budget problem. Something has got to give.

Third, I also hope that the BOS is looking all over to cut the budget and minimize any tax increases. For example, the town employee budget. Another uncomfortable place to visit.

Fourth, BOS should also be looking at areas of spending that are not a necessity at this point in time….one example being CPA funds. Do we really have to create a Historical district at this very point in time? I know 18-21K may seem like a drop in the bucket compared to other budgets but it is still spending at a time when we should be cutting or coming in at level funding.

With all the intelligent minds in this town we should be capable of being resourceful and fair without being hateful.

John Boiardi
12 years ago
Reply to  Pat Q


Fire, Ambulance, Police?
12 years ago

Well-said Pat.

I, for one, am beginning to be concerned about fire, ambulance and police – and I am a school supporter from WAY back. These are essential services to 100% of our residents and I fear we are beginning to cut way too deep there. Nobody is going to want to announce this on the evening news, but someone needs to consider more carefully the future safety and security of our community.

I firmly believe that the bulk of remaining fat is in the school system, which has been the favored child for long enough. A community cannot survive by schools alone.

Earl E. Byrd
12 years ago

A quick and dirty recap of what was noted in the MWDN article:

1. “It (k-8 plus Algonquin) would also be $800,000 less than what the schools received in fiscal 2011.”

2. “He did say that cuts to the Algonquin Regional High School budget, which increased .55 percent over fiscal 2011, would be nearly impossible.”

Assuming the $800,000 has to come out of K-8, we can reasonably expect that a minimum of $800,000 is coming out of the K-8 allocation for those not requiring special education.

From p. 19 of the warrant article (April 2010) on the Town’s website:

1. K-8 for FY 2011 of $16.5 million of which $11.5 million is for “regular day programs”, and $5 million of which is for “Special education – Chapter 766 (“SPED”).”
This assumes that the SPED allocation does not increase at all. To put that in perspective, fiscal year 2009 SPED was $4.2 million, the FY 2010 budget for SPED was $4.5 million, and the FY 2011 request (which I believe was approved at TM) was $5 million.

For K-8, non-SPED spending we will be down $800,000, or 7% ($800,000 / FY 2011 request of $11.47 million) – at a minimum, and likely more if SPED spending increases in line with the last 2 years (+$400,000 per year).

The K-8 non-SPED population is going to bear the brunt of the proposed budget.

Please don’t attack me for being against SPED. That’s not the case. I know and love some of our SPED students and the funds spent for their benefit are more than justified from an economic and moral perspective.

On a per student basis, the K-8 budget for FY 2010 was $10,419 per student ($16.5 million divided by 1,553 students as of October 2009 in K-8 (p. 169 of the annual report)).

It would be interesting to see how the per student amount compares to other towns.

carrie alpert
12 years ago

I did not get from your crafted email anything but the facts–we all know children who have needs that need to be met in order to access the curriculum. The funds that need to be spent on their access to education are guaranteed by law and rightfully so.

Perhaps we think about charging a materials fee.

Al Hamilton
12 years ago

Let’s face it, it is budget crunch time and if we keep on doing the same old things the same old way we will be laying off teachers, firefighters and police officers. However, there are a multitude of opportunities to change the way we do business and free up substantial monies that can be used to protect these vital services. Change is difficult and it will take some courage but the savings opportunities are real. Here is a list of 16 things that can save teachers, police officers and firefighters jobs.

1. A serious independent review of whether we can operate in a 3 school environment. This can free up several hundred thousand dollars in operating costs and permit us to sell of a number of old buildings raising several million dollars in one time funds

2. Freeze Salaries – Potential savings next year $800,000

3. Adopt Chapter 18 requiring retirees to sign up for Medicaid and have the town pay for a supplemental policy – Potential savings $150,000 per year starting in a year.

4. Make the Transfer Station into an Enterprise Fund – Let those who use the facility pay the full costs of operations (they do not now). No reason for those that choose a private hauler to subsidize those that use the transfer station through their taxes – Potential savings $50,000 to $100,000

5. Keep Police Cruisers and other vehicles for a min of 120,000 miles. Other communities do this. It is cheaper to repair a vehicle at these ages than replace with new. Potential savings $10-20k per year

6. Operate smaller more fuel efficient crusiers. The current fleet is getting worse with the addition of gas guzzling SUV’s. We use 25,000 gallons of gas per year in our crusiers.

7. Consolidate counter operations in town hall. There is no reason why a customer cant get a transfer sticker, dog license, register to vote, file for an abutters list or get a building permit from a single service counter. This is an opportunity to reduce costs and improve service.

8. Close and sell Fayville Hall

9. End the CPA after the Chestnut Hill bond is paid off use the 1% tax authority (requires a vote by the citizens) for teachers, police officers and fire fighters – $250,000.

10. Charge Market rates for the Superintendent’s office

11. Charge Market rates for all after school programs

12. End subsidies for after school programs

13. Consolidate Cemetery Operations in the DPW

14. Regionalize dispatch operations

15. Do a full, independent, cost benefit analysis on privatizing Ambulance Services

16. Insist on mutual aide equity. Other communities need to provide us as much services as we provide them or pay.

This is my list. Others have theirs. If we took the hard decisions to adopt these reforms we would readily have enough money to preserve our teachers, police officers, DPW workers and fire fighters. If you are worried about teacher’s jobs you need to be talking to your elected leaders about these reforms.

John Butler
12 years ago

In terms of getting us any closer to workable budgets, last night’s Board of Selectmen meeting was not very helpful. Going into the meeting the Treasurer was carrying requests from the departments that report into the Selectmen that were up about 6% compared to the prior year budgets and capital requests from Selectmen’s departments up a whopping 95% (almost $500,000). The schools were up about 5.2% in their request. All of those numbers are too high, but the Selectmen would be better off to first get their own requests into a supportable range, before they complain about the school’s requests.

Right now, after some anticipated reductions in capital spending requests, we are about $1 million over the tax cap. That is unsupportable. Therefore, tonight, Advisory Committee voted to ask all departments, including schools, to explain what they would cut if they had only the same money as last year, or were up only 2% over last year. For the K8 schools, these amount to about $850,000 and $500,000 less than the currently requested amounts, respectively. Looking at those impacts will help guide us on how to address the problem.

Pat Q
12 years ago


Could you shed some light on what kinds of things are included in the capital requests for the Selectman’s budget? Also, what departmets are under the umbrella of
the Selectman?


Al Hamilton
12 years ago
Reply to  Pat Q

Here is a like with the latest budget spread sheet. It has all the budget items At the bottom of the first page is the detail of the capital items.

It is easier to identify the budgets not controlled by the Selectmen:
114 Moderator, 131 Advisory, 132 Reserve Fund, 140 & 141 Assessors, 151 Personnel Board, 160-162 Clerk&Elections, 175 Planning Board, 510 & 511 Board of Health, 610 Library, Schools, Debt, Overlay Reserve, Worcester County Retirement.

12 years ago

Al and others. Great recommendations all the way around. Gobron and BOS need to start the process of “donwsizing” everything. And, “access” to cirriculum, pay for it your self. If it is not funded by the stae or federal government we are not bound by any law and to that we dont have to take state or federal funds. That is a real bogus example.

Earl E. Byrd
12 years ago

Another long and perhaps too detailed comment.

The short story: Southborough spends approximately 53% as compared to Northborough’s 61% of expenditures on its schools. The 68% referenced by John Boiardi was not calculated in the same way that Northborough calculated their 61%.

The longer story:

John Boiardi in his February 21, 2011 at 3:08 PM comment notes “The town of Northborough spends 60% of their total budget on schools while Southborough spends 68 %.”

Being curious how Northborough can spend that much less on their schools, I took a look at their April 2010 town warrant (p. 25 of the pdf on their website) and Mr. Boiardi, the numbers you reference are not calculated in a consistent manner.


FY2010 budget (revised) for total schools of $27.1 million on total FY 2010 (revised) expenditures of $44.23 million (excluding enterprise fund payments) equals 61% for schools.

FY2011 budget for total schools of $27.45 million on total FY 2011 expenditures of $45.23 million (excluding enterprise fund payments) equals 60.7% for schools.
Note: The Northborough numbers EXCLUDE debt and interest and benefits.

The 60.7% is presented in a pie chart on p. 27 (of the pdf) of the Northborough’s town report. That same pie chart presents the debt and interest, and insurance and benefits amounts separately.

Southborough as calculated on a consistent basis:

For FY2010 school expenditures equal to 50.7%.

Calculated based on FY2010 total for schools of $22.35 million (k-8 on p. 19 of the warrant of $16.18 million, Algonquin of $5.97 million (p.23), Assabet of $0.17 million (p.25), and Norfolk County Ag of $0.03 million (p. 25)) divided by total town and schools expenditures of $44.07 million ($14.8 million for “Town”, and $29.3 million for Schools” from the REVCAP worksheet on the Advisory Committee website).

For FY2011 school expenditures equal to 52.6%.

Calculated based on FY2011 total for schools of $23.05 million (k-8 on p. 19 of the warrant of $16.45 million, Algonquin of $6.43 million (p.23), Assabet of $0.14 million (p.25), and Norfolk County Ag of $0.03 million (p. 25)) divided by total town and schools expenditures of $43.79 million ($13.87 million for “Town”, and $29.9 million for Schools” from the REVCAP worksheet on the Advisory Committee website).

So, we in Southborough spend approximately 53% of our town budget – NOT the 68% noted – if you calculate the numbers on a consistent basis to how Northborough calculated the 60.7% referenced.

For what it’s worth, including benefits and debt and interest as the Advisory Committee does, makes much more sense to me. We just have to be very careful making comparisons to numbers that are not calculated in the same manner.

Kelly Roney
12 years ago
Reply to  Earl E. Byrd

Earl, thanks, it’s important to compare apples to apples, and that requires the kind of detailed look at the numbers you gave them.

I prefer to look at capital and operating expenses for education together, even though that gives a bigger number. Education is and should be the most important thing we do as a town.

Earl E. Byrd
12 years ago
Reply to  Earl E. Byrd

Northborough spends 71% (schools, benefits, and school debt) of their total budget ($45.23 million consisting of $32.1 million for schools, and $13.1 million for everything else).

Page 14 of Northborough’s Appropriations Committee Report ( identifies total school spending including debt and benefits for the FY2011 budget to be $32,100,469.

Also interesting: Northborough spends $599,207 on its library as compared to $402,250 here in Southborough.

John Boiardi
12 years ago


You may be correct in the way you calculate the percentages. The 60-68 % was stated by the BofS at their Feb 14th meeting after selectman John Roony went to the Northboro website. Regarding Southborough, the Bof S provided a handout that showed Southborough running 63% for several years running. What ever number or percentage you use , the school budget is the biggest driver of the town budget.

John Rooney
12 years ago

Mr. Boiardi is correct. Those present at that meeting will recall that when the Northborough data was referenced, I cautioned everyone to make sure we were comparing apples to apples before elevating that difference to something other than what it really is.

At our meeting Tuesday night, a handout for all present clearly indicated the revenue split as following:

FY11 FY10 FY09 FY08 FY07 FY06 FY05
Town 31.7% 33.6% 33.7% 34.1% 33.1% 32.7% 35.2%
School 68.3% 66.4% 66.3% 65.9% 66.9% 67.3% 64.8%
These percentages include debt and benefits, and I agree with Earl that the inclusion of these expenses only makes sense since they represent real dollars that are allocated and spent.

As I previously stated, for years, we have clearly known about the coming of a fiscal meltdown in municipal financing. And for years, perhaps with myopic optimism, some may have accused others of crying wolf. The wolf is real and he is here. According to the Mass Dept of Education, “The FY 2012 state budget is likely to be the most challenging that both the state and local school districts will have faced.” That fiscal reality needs to be reflected not just in the school budgets, but all budgets.

Fixing the Town’s current fiscal crisis lies in a combination of disciplined union and non-union salary and benefit negotiations, creative reductions in expenses, optimizing business development opportunities, and maximizing current revenue opportunities.

It does not lie in pitting the town against the schools. Superintendents, administrators and teachers everywhere seem to be attacked with a vehemence thus far reserved for corporate CEOs and Wall Street bankers. That is not right and not fair. An appropriate education for every citizen is vitally important to the success of our country.

The state needs money for education. As the United States languishes in the worst recession since the Great Depression, towns like ours continue to brave the economic plight. Unfortunately, public revenue continues to depreciate; states expect budget deficits though 2013. The State projected budget shortfall is 1.8 billion for FY2012. With all signs pointing towards a continuing recession with stagnant job growth, and a state political environment in election season where “tax” might as well be spelled with four letters, we need to work closer than ever with all departments and committees and by doing so weather this storm.

If Town Meeting determines that the revenue split is not appropriate, the beauty of our system is that they can vote against it. And, if they do not agree with those who suggest that the split is reasonable and fair (viz., me), our system allows them to have someone else sit in my seat at election time.

One final comment which I expressed Tuesday night near the end of the meeting. I hope everyone recognizes that as we work towards a budget and a better financial future, that we are one town working together. We may have different opinions and perspectives, but our united goal should be solving our financial problems together in a respectful manner. Many town employees, elected officials, and volunteers have put enormous effort into the production of the budget. Therefore, lets all try to make every effort to be respectful, and rational, and not make rhetorical accusations.

12 years ago

Great comments by all – one more item I don’t recall seeing listed as a proposed cut-back for the upcoming budget:
Transportation Charges for K-8 bus use (assuming that ARHS continues to be excluded from this proposal due to regional agreement/bus charges – seems that should be revisited, too)

carrie alpert
12 years ago

I ask this not knowing the true answer or I would not ask it.
Have all avenues for Federal and State monies been exhausted and what do we have coming to us from both areas–if anything? It seems that we are owed SPED money or something from fiscal 2011, or we are waiting on some monies. I remember hearing about that at a meeting–maybe we received them and are still this deep in the red.
I completely agree that we are in dire straits and need to be level headed, perhaps what is staggering and is making us all so scared is that you can hold a fundraiser and raise $4000 and then you are hit with a number like we are going to need to cut $800,000 –I am in the schools all the time, very connected and it is just not this big party of excess with teachers (i see how they switch off and make it work) and space and that is where the frustration comes from.

Louis Kuchnir
12 years ago

Have the selectman considered bringing our commercial property tax rate into line with neighboring suburbs like Framingham, Marlborough, and Westborough? I wonder what is the total assessed value of Southborough’s commercial property, and what revenue could be raised by bringing it into line with those other towns.

Al Hamilton
12 years ago

An interesting perspective on teaching and the money we spend on schools.

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