Due To Declining State Funding, School Budget Not Sustainable Without Rolling Overrides or Cuts
On Saturday, the School Committee laid bare the extent of their need for substantial revenue increases, not only to fund new programs, but also simply to keep the schools open and running at current levels. According to a School Committee document released to the joint meeting of FinCom, School Committee and Selectmen, the schools require an annual 4.7 percent increase in revenue just to maintain current staffing and program offerings. Additionally, the same 4.7 percent annual increases would still likely be needed, even if Groton and Dunstable approve override funding for 40 new school positions.
Although such a high rate of spending increase might seem profligate at first glance, School Committee Budget Committee Chairman Alison Manugian explained that more than half of the increases were due to the need to fill gaps created by static or declining state funding for schools in wealthier communities, communities presumed to be able to shoulder a greater portion of school funding.
She said that maintaining current school programs and staffing would actually require about a $1.12 million increase this year, which translates to about a 2-1/2% annual increase, an increase which would be considered ‘sustainanable’ since it respects growth limitations mandated by proposition 2-1/2.
The School Committee argued that these persistent funding demands are largely due to state government failure to keep past funding promises and failure to fund education adequately in school districts across the entire Commonwealth. In consequence, they said, “The revenue burden has fallen on local cities and towns.”
Ultimately, the School Committee explained, “This [funding] model is pitting schools against municipalities and creating an ever-increasing gap between communities that can afford annual overrides and those that cannot garner such support.” School committee member Alison Manugian said, “We’re at a point where our communities need to decide if we’re going to step into the void and fund education, or we’re not going to be able to spend that money and watch our district erode.”
Finance Committee member