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Despite Dip Into E&D Fund, Dunstable Still Comes Up $160,000 Short

Marlena Gilbert: ‘We Are Not Going To Cut The Budget’
by Connie Sartini
     In his budget update to the Select Board, Town Manager Mark Haddad advised that the town may have to operate with a 1/12th budget if the Dunstable Town Meeting is pushed out beyond June 30.
     Groton Dunstable Regional School Committee Chairman Marlena Gilbert told the Monday night virtual meeting with the Groton Select Board that she felt there was “little chance” that Dunstable would have their budget finalized by June 30. She stressed that a “good chunk of the School spending occurs in August and September, but with Dunstable unfunded, we can carry on, but come September there will be a negative impact.”
     For the FY 21 budget, the Groton Dunstable School District will use $800,000 from their E&D account to help out. But, Gilbert added, “Dunstable still has a deficit of $160,000.” She said that the School Department was trying to help out but “we are running out of options.” She advised that the School Department has already reduced non-teaching employees, and worked to decrease the transportation costs by $60,000.
     Gilbert said, “Dunstable is short by $160,000. The consensus from the School Committee at our last meeting was that we cannot cut services. It would be devastating to our students. We need to be prepared to provide mandated remedial educational services and prepare for additional expenses to meet gathering restrictions in our schools come fall. We are not going to cut the budget. We have tasked the School Administration to find out if there is anything that we can pre-pay. DESE (Department of Elementary and Secondary Education) does allow for specific expenses to be prepaid, with limitations.”
     Gilbert added that there may be a small change to the assessment to both Groton and Dunstable, “But Dunstable has to figure it out on their side. They have $324,000 in their Stabilization Fund. We are still working on the budget, but it's not going to be hundreds of thousands of dollars.” She added that Dunstable has more reserves than the School District after the use of E&D funds.
     Haddad reiterated, “If Groton approves the budget in June, and Dunstable doesn’t, then we have to go to a 1/12th budget
Following the meeting, Gilbert said, “I believe that our District has been proactive in finding thoughtful financial solutions to help fund our schools over the last several years, this year being one of the most difficult thus far. I am confident that both member towns will also do their part as we work through these difficult times.”
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