Wednesday, May 17th:

Last night, the School Committee approved an adjustment to the FY19 finalized budget of $664,396. As all are now well aware, this was the result of the Committee’s original spending plan from March 14th failing to gain the approval of our member towns. The attached document outlines the reductions in spending, along with the assumption of additional state revenues of $175,000 to arrive at the budget adjustment noted above. The bulk of spending reductions come from the cut of a half time custodian from each school, as well as 14 Instructional Assistants across all 5 schools. As described and discussed last night, this has been a balancing act of minimizing impact, not avoiding it. With the pattern of reductions over recent years, we are well beyond the ability to make reductions that don’t impact the educational experience for our students. I certainly can’t capture the reasoning and discussion behind the reductions briefly in writing, so I would encourage you to view the video of last night’s meeting, which can be viewed on the School Committee YouTube channel at The live video from last night is currently being edited and cleaned up and will be posted back online by Friday morning, May 18th at the latest.

The document linked below includes three pages of information. The first page contains reductions that I recommended and were approved by the School Committee last night in the top box shaded in yellow. The bottom box details additional reductions that have been discussed and reviewed in detail, but cuts that were not recommended, and not approved in the final spending plan. The revised spending plan included the changes in the top box only, totalling $664,396.

Document: FY2019 Budget Update – May 16, 2018

Next steps in the approval process require that our member towns reconvene a special town meeting, which is a town’s “appropriating body”, to approve or disapprove this new spending plan and certified assessment it yields for each town. If a town chooses not to hold a town meeting, it will be a default approval for this new revised budget. Given that Newbury passed the town meeting article and the override, they have approved a higher amount, so don’t need to take any further action as their assessment will now be reduced. Next steps for Rowley and Salisbury have yet to be confirmed.

After initially expressing concern that the proposed cuts as outlined don’t reduce spending enough, Neil Harrington, Town Manager from Salisbury, suggested to the School Committee that he learned a great deal from the discussion last evening. As a result, Neil suggested that perhaps a second opportunity to pass a lower override in Salisbury at a special election is something he’d like to review with the Salisbury Selectmen. As of now, Salisbury has scheduled a special town meeting on Saturday, June 30th at 10:00 AM, while Rowley has yet to confirm a date. There are clearly still details that are yet to be determined, and Mr. Harrington wasn’t committing to any specific course of action, but I appreciate his willingness to reconsider the impact of the cuts we’ve made to date and think outside the box about a way to ensure further reductions beyond what was reluctantly agreed last night are not necessary.

So the message is that we are one step closer to a final spending plan, and we do know the cuts agreed last night will be required. However, there are still details to be clarified before I can give an accurate assessment as to where we will be heading next. Selectmen will be meeting next week in each town, and the District Communications Committee (DCC – School Committee along with officials from each member town) will be meeting next Thursday, May 24th to continue this discussion. We should have further clarity about intended actions and next steps after that meeting, and I will update you as soon as I possibly can.

Wednesday, March 14th:

The School Committee unanimously approved a final budget. See “Final Budget” tab above.

With the passage of the final budget, we now await approval in our member towns. In order for the budget to pass, it must be approved in 2 of 3 member towns. As of this point, we have been told that the final budget assessments will require the approval of an override vote, adding further complexity to the FY19 development process. The link below shows a listing of further reductions being considered to decrease the budget if the final budget is not passed. This is current thinking and not in any way a final listing. With other reductions now realized, the reduction of 23 staff is a more refined, and unfortunately realistic, figure that would become a reality if the override and budget is not passed.

LINK: Current Thinking – If the Budget Does Not Pass

Wednesday, February 14th:

The School Committee approved the FY19 Tentative Budget this evening. The budget represents the ‘high water’ mark, documenting the highest potential level of spending. Following the hearing on February 28th, and deliberation on March 7th, it is anticipated that this number will trend down with potential savings that will be clarified over the coming weeks.

In addition to any savings which allow us to keep level services, the possibility for substantial cuts remains very real. Towns have been very clear in that the only way they can afford this budget is through an override. While they are supportive overall on the potential, they have very realistic concerns that an override will pass, leaving us with requirements to make substantial cuts.

FY19 Tentative Budget

Wednesday, February 7th:

The documents below are PowerPoint slides presented or referenced during the presentation on February 7th. The first is a modified and simplified version of the more extensive presentation provided in February, 2017 that outlined all the contributing factors that got us to this point, showing trends from 2002 to 2017. Questions about why costs are rising while enrollment is dropping have been asked, and last year’s presentation attempted to answer them. In addition, we were approaching the critical crisis point that we’ve further realized this year, as the Chapter 70 formula is not adequate for regional schools. This year’s updated presentation provides a snapshot of the pertinent details on this issue explored in more detail last year. Given the fact that last year’s charts have been recently circulated, the presentation has not been updated to include 2018 to avoid confusion. Information from 2018 does not drastically change the figures, although they have trended further into troubling territory.

Budget documents reviewed on February 7th are the same as linked below for the February 1st DCC meeting.

Thursday, February 1st DCC: 

These documents were produced for the District Communications Committee, which is comprised of selectmen, finance committee, town administrators, and schools committee members from all three towns. These two documents further refine the information presented on January 27th. The first document summarizes all the changes that are currently being considered based on the advice of the Committee on January 27th. The second document provides various scenarios for assessments to member towns, and detail at the bottom in regards to general levels of cuts that would be required in order to reach those assessment figures. It is important to note that no specific cuts have been identified, rather we have chosen to show representative levels of cuts needed based on an average salaried employee being cut. As the process continues, more specific cuts will be identified and considered, and more specific information provided.

Saturday, January 27th Budget Workshop:

This document outlines a summary of all requests included in the requests from the schools and departments. These have been prioritized into those which we have no option but to do, down to those that are important but lower priority.

This document illustrates the various assessments that would result based on the options chosen on the request summary. It is important to note that these are VERY preliminary, and are provided to illustrate hypotheticals, not any formally voted spending.