Friday, February 11, 2005
Minuteman HS seeks 36% increase from Carlisle
Tom Markham, Assistant Superintendent, and Nancy Weiss, Carlisle's representative to the Minuteman Regional School Committee, appeared before the Carlisle Finance Committee to defend a 35% increase in Carlisle's proposed FY06 assessment for the Minuteman Regional High School (MMRHS), Carlisle's technical high school alternative. The new assessment of $190,678 versus $140,833 for FY05 presented a difficulty for the FinCom, which must now find another $50,000 if it is to present a balanced budget to Spring Town Meeting.
Why does Carlisle pay more?
Of particular concern to the FinCom members are funding formulas that assign Carlisle a large increase while the overall MMRHS budget is up only 2.8%. While the per-student cost for Carlisle was $13,438 in FY05, it will be $16,037 in FY06. A high 67% of Carlisle students receive special education, adding $4,250 per student.
In addition, a state-mandated assessment formula favors low-growth communities at the expense of towns such as Carlisle where revenues are rising.
As a member of the Minuteman district, Carlisle assumes a percentage of operating and capital equipment costs based on fall 2005 enrollment. Assessments are added for students receiving special education services and for students in post-high school and after school programs. Carlisle is then assigned a "state required minimum" assessment based on a "municipal growth factor" intended to measure a town's ability to pay. The latter factor is responsible for substantial differences in average assessment; Carlisle with 11.89 FTE students has a required minimum of $113,695, while Boxborough with 26.73 students is assessed only $106,924.
Declining student population
Markham reported that in-district enrollment is rising, but out-of-district enrollment is falling and will fall further as Cambridge is forming its own technical high school. As a result, total enrollment will drop from 950 students in 2005 to 930 in 2006. Carlisle's enrollment has risen in recent years from 4.28 in 1999 to 11.49 in 2005.
Other MMRHS challenges include flat funding of Chapter 90 from the state, and an expected reduction in the formula for assessing out-of-district tuitions. Salaries are up about 2% adding $214,428 to the budget, and employee benefits are up $46,885. Markham noted that from FY03 to FY05 the equivalent of 18 full-time staff were cut for a reduction of $420,000. Transportation and utility costs are also rising. Several subject areas, including technology trades, and commercial, will sustain budget cuts due to enrollment reductions, but funding will be sought from other sources, including business partners.
At the conclusion of the presentation, FinCom members considered their options, which are few. Much of the assessment formula is state-ordained and unlikely to change. The MMRHS budget is put forward to member towns, and if 11 of 16 approve it, it is the law for all. In essence, this has always meant that Minuteman gets what it asks for. "We don't have much choice," said John Nock, except to accept the number and look for a way to make the budget balance.
© 2005 The