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Dunstable Advisory Board Supports ‘Superintendent Budget’, Balks at SC Add-Ons

The Dunstable Advisory Board, the equivalent of Groton’s finance committee, met Monday to try and reach agreement on a solution to a significant budget deficit in their draft 2018 budget. The deficit is caused in large part by a significantly larger assessment from the Groton Dunstable school district triggered by a sudden shift in student enrollment (fewer Groton students, more Dunstable students).

The first step towards a solution was to look at 3 different scenarios for funding the school district. The district’s final budget in which the school committee added positions not originally requested by the administration would not help close the gap. Funding the original budget drafted by the district superintendent would bring the deficit down to $54,000. A third option was to fund an amount based on a projection of what Dunstable would normally pay for a district assessment without the shift in enrollment.

Although a formal vote wasn’t taken, the committee unanimously favored funding the so-called “superintendent’s budget.” Assuming they can negotiate this reduced budget number with the school committee, the advisory committee still has to find $54,000 in revenue or savings. One scenario discussed was suspending the 3-year program to adjust town salaries to personal board recommended levels and to not provide a cost of living increase this fiscal year.

Even if a solution to the town services budget deficit is found this does not take into account a number of ATM warrant articles that would require additional funds. Some of these warrant articles are not considered to be optional (such as unpaid bills from FY16). Funding for these articles plus an anticipated pay raise in the police department would most likely have to come out of the meager free cash account.

The final decision on the budget rests with the Dunstable Board of Selectmen. The advisory board will put forward their recommendations for a budget but the final decision on controversial topics such as the suspension of cost of living increases rests with the selectmen and town meeting voters.

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