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G-D Schools Spend More On Benefits Than Similar Districts

Overall Per-Pupil Spending Ranks District In Middle of Peer Group
by Robert Stewart
In recent reports prepared by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), the Groton-Dunstable Regional School District spends a greater proportion of its revenue on employee benefits in comparison to similar school districts. The comparison data is provided by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to all school districts in the state to give local school districts an overall view of how they allocate their revenue resources.
     The data provided to school districts show how school districts allocate their revenue over 10 different categories which gives an indication of what the district spends on teachers, administration, instructional materials, pupil services, operations and maintenance and employee benefits. The data is given as a percent of total spending. Administrators at the Groton-Dunstable Regional Schools used the data for their district and compared it to 10 similar school districts both locally and outside of the local area. The school districts used in the comparative analysis include Littleton, Westford, Harvard,
Chelmsford, Acton-Boxborough, Lynnfield, North Reading, Westwood, Masconomet and Bedford.
     The comparative data reveal that the Groton-Dunstable Regional School Districts spent approximately 20 percent of their total revenue on employee benefits which was significantly higher than what similar districts spend. The next highest spending in that category were school districts in Chelmsford and North Reading where spending on benefits was at the 17 percent level. Locally, school districts in Littleton and Westford spent approximately 15 percent of their total revenue on benefits while Harvard and Acton-Boxborough spent 16 percent.
     While Groton-Dunstable was at the top in what it spends on employee benefits, the district was at the bottom on spending for teacher salaries. According to the DESE reports, Groton-Dunstable spent approximately 39 percent of its revenue for teacher salaries while most similar districts spent approximately 41 percent. Other categories where spending District was near the top were in pupil services (which includes transportation and food services), Guidance/Pyschology and other teaching services (which includes librarians, substitute teachers). The Groton-Dunsable School District ranked at or near the bottom in spending in comparison to similar districts for categories which include instructional materials and operation/maintenance.
     In regards to overall per-pupil spending, the Groton-Dunstable Regional School District is ranked in the middle in comparison to similar school districts. Groton- Dunstable’s per-pupil spending is recorded at $14,990. The range of per-pupil spending in the 10 comparative similar school districts runs from a low of $13,647 (Littleton) to a high of $18,303 (Westwood). Locally, Harvard’s per-pupil spending was $16,766, Westford was $14,004 and Acton-Boxborough was $14,382.
     According to School Committee Chair Marlena Gilbert, the Committee will study the comparative data and discuss the areas where spending appears high and areas where spending appears low. Such discussions will take place as the district begins to develop its budget for the fiscal 2021 year. Gilbert noted that while the district appears to spend more in employee benefits which includes retirement and insurance benefits than similar districts the differences could be explained in how benefits are reported to the state and also the differences between a regional school district and a municipal school district. Gilbert also indicated that the data will be studied further and become part of contract negotiations.
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