Saturday, May 10, 2014

The School Budget And the Tax Rate

Ken O’Brien

The agenda for Tuesday’s meeting of the Southbridge School Committee seems to add to the tax woes of Southbridge residents.

This analysis is being prepared on the basis of only partial information. As such, it seeks to provide questions to which we need answers in anticipation of the upcoming Town Council vote on the FY 2015 budget.

The original school budget as proposed by the Superintendent was for $26,282,197.00. The budget to be voted upon is for $25,273,485.00, a reduction of $1,008,712.00 or 3.8%. 

However, item XII. B. on the agenda then adds, “The Town of Southbridge has agreed to provide $31,000 for School Choice Tuition and additional local aid in the amount of $84,000 with the expectations of total funding for FY15 in the amount of $25,388,485.00.”

Without that latter provision, the proposed school budget is an increase over the original budget proposed by the Town Manager of only $21,502.00.

That latter provision, however, is very troubling.

What does it mean to say “…with the expectations of total funding…”?  Is the Town Council going to vote on a Town Budget for FY 2015 that has a school budget of $25,273,485.00 or $25,388,485.00?

Additional concern relates to the statement, “The Town of Southbridge has agreed to provide $31,000 for School Choice Tuition and additional local aid in the amount of $84,000…”

Is this total of $115,000.00 incremental to the total budget or is it a transfer from other accounts previously budgeted? If it is the former, then it is an increase in the total town budget in addition to the $21,502.00 already mentioned. If it is the latter, it indicates that there was $115,000 in the original non-school budget that was considered capable of being cut. Was this the result of subcommittee review of the budget or action by the Town Manager? If it was a reduction in the original proposal, then where else can cuts be made?

If it doesn’t indicate cuts in some line items, then it is an incremental increase in the total town budget of $136,502.00 beyond the original proposal by the Town Manager.

Since the original proposal by the Town Manager was for a budget that was ultimately balanced by an increase in the tax rate of 4.52% to generate a total of $794,961.00, the only option to balance this increase would be a further increase in the tax rate. The additional increase of $136,502.00 would lead to an increase in the tax rate of 5.3%. That would result in a tax rate of $20.68 as opposed to the $20.53 originally estimated. 

While these issues certainly need to be clarified, I still feel comfortable in repeating my original call for the Town Council to approve a bottom line budget amount of $48,814,819.00 and mandate the Town Manager to institute line item reductions to meet that target. This would maintain the current tax rate plus or minus a few basis points.


  1. Think about it. The Town Manager proposed a school department budget that exceeded the net school spending requirement by $800,000. The school administration wanted more than $1 million in addition to that. And before any of that, Southbridge ranked 14th out of 43 central Massachusetts school districts in per pupil spending. Is the problem the funding or the people who are in charge of managing its use?

  2. How can anyone believe it's not "management" that is the problem?

  3. I took a walk around the new school yesterday and was surprised by the wear and tear on the soccer field. I asked a teacher about it and learned that the youth soccer program has been using the fields, in excess.
    I also found out that they were denied use originally, to give the new field time to recoup for the fall. But Mr. McLoughlin (husband of the school committee chair) threw a hissy fit and the Grand Dame made the call to Buzz, who folded in a heart beat.
    More abuse of power.

  4. Are You Kidding Me?May 12, 2014 at 11:41 AM

    Prencipe, Tarantino and Laliberte over spent 3.6 million dollars in one year. These girls are positioned to perhaps not over-spend that amount, but have it added to the district budget.
    A person on this blog warned us six months ago and it fell on deaf ears. Time to pay the fiddler.
    And speaking of fiddles . . . Let us be reminded that Rome burned while Nero fiddled. Think back a committee meeting or two: the girls spent the majority of the meeting in mutual admiration with Ted Bartlett regarding a concert. The schools are in shambles and the girls and Bartlett rambled on and on about a concert!

  5. I am so outraged at the fiscal waste within our school district I have contacted State Auditor Suzanne Bump and requested an audit if the 2913-13 and 2913-14 school department books. I urge everyone who is concerned about providing a beetef education, at a reasonable cost, to do the same.
    Office of the State Auditor
    State House
    Room 230
    Boston, MA

    1. Agree With "Stop The Abuse"May 16, 2014 at 10:26 AM

      This is an excellent idea. I am sending in my letter this morning. Thanks "Stop the Abuse".
      I hope many of us will send a letter to this place and maybe we stop the endless wasted money by our current school board people.
      I upset that we paid over $350 thousand dollars for unemployment costs - SO FAR -this year. How many teachers could we hire? Maybe replace an real old fire truck? Up grade an ambulance? Get a couple new cop cars? Buy some new books for the library? Or maybe even give a tax break to us all?
      But to pay people to sit on there asses because that old school boss and the school board don't like them? That just wrong.
      Pleasee help us, send a letter to the state office in Boston.

  6. Gargantuan MastitisMay 16, 2014 at 9:38 AM

    So let me get this right, "Stop the Abuse", the town's children aren't supposed to use the town's public fields? Where do you propose they play soccer? In the street, or maybe the cemetery? Oh right, the high school needs to hoard its fields for the dozen or so soccer games they'll play during the season. That makes sense. WHAT an abuse of power that is, making sure that all the town's children are treated fairly.

    1. Agree With "Stop The Abuse"May 16, 2014 at 10:19 AM

      The Town pays a lot of money for "experts" on various issues. If the person(s) in charge of making usage of facilities decisions recommends that the fields be allowed to rest, then that's what should be done.

      We should not allow political neophytes, or their friends and family, to prevent our paid professionals from doing the right thing for the students and taxpayers.

    2. Actually the school and the town operate independently. There is a committee and budget for youth leagues on the Town side. There are also many fields set aside for all youth sports.
      If the current school committee stopped wasting so much money on unemployment, law suits, explosion of central office personnel, three principals at the new school, etc., there might actually be some money returned to the Town general fund for expansion of fields and staff to maintain them.
      Where do you think the 350,000.00 in UNBUDGETED and UNFUNDED unemployment costs is coming from? Not the school budget, but the Town's general fund. If you are upset about the fields being limited, blame your current school committee and superintendent.

  7. Dies anyone know if there has been a final ratification of a contract agreement between the district and the teachets' union?
    The mouth of the committee blabbed on a couple months ago about the windfall for the union. But that "transparency" thing seems missing again. Girls, Now much did you give away of the taxpayer monies? Is it a done deal or not?
    This silence may explain Dave Williams' silence on the continued mistreat of staff. Or perhaps Mr. Williams is more concerned about his own future. He very well may need to be concerned


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