The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, January 29, 2010

Minuteman reduces Carlisle assessment 9%

Minuteman Regional High School has presented budget reductions for the 2011 fiscal year that will lower assessments to the member towns, resulting in a 7% reduction overall and a 9.04% reduction for Carlisle over FY10. At a January 19 presentation to the regional representatives, Minuteman Superintendent Dr. Ed Bouquillon pointed to complaints from the towns that assessments had grown while student population is on a downward trend. According to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) website, he said, Minuteman now has the highest per-student cost and the lowest student-to-teacher ratio of any technical career high school in the state, and further increases “were not going to fly in this (economic) climate.”

The Carlisle assessment will be $168,275, down from $184,993 in FY10. Carlisle is one of 16 towns that are members of the Minuteman, which provides a career and technical alternative to the Concord-Carlisle Regional High School. Each year member towns receive assessments from the school based on a number of factors, including students sent as of October of the previous year. Next year’s Carlisle assessment is based on a steady student population of 7.5 full time equivalents, but will reflect a per student cost of $22,437, down from $24,666 this year.

Bouquillon noted that a level-services budget would have required a 3.2% increase due to teacher salaries and state aid reductions. To meet the lower budget will require reductions of $1,809,043 from that number. Four teaching positions in auto collision repair, math, health and special education will be cut, with retirements in English, social studies and science to remain unfilled. Five administrative positions, some clerical positions, a custodian, and 0.5 nurse will be eliminated. Cuts in professional development, supplies, and the elimination of programs in auto body and office technology had already been contemplated, Student fees will rise and stipends be reduced. The 3:30 p.m. late bus will be cut, though the 5:30 p.m. bus will remain. Other cuts will be contemplated depending on revenues.

In his presentation, Bouquillin pointed to “some brutal realities.” Enrollment at the school was 724 in 2006-07 and has been steadily falling to a low of 680 last year. It is currently 698, showing a slight rebound. He presented graphs from the DESE that compared technical schools, showing a per-pupil cost that ranged from $16,491 at Shawsheen to $25,988 at Minuteman. The second highest was South Middlesex at $22,754.

The DESE website also presented information on student-teacher ratios that indicated those at Minuteman were significantly out of line with the others. Minuteman ratios were reportedly 7.4 to 1 with other technical high schools ranging from 9.3 to 1 to 10.8 to 1. Bouquillon noted that the numbers do not reflect post-graduate, half-day or middle school students taught by the school. The cuts in staffing planned for FY11 will bring the school more in line with the averages.

Member communities have expressed frustration with the growing costs at Minuteman. Belmont Selectman Daniel Leclerc in a letter dated December 18, 2009, explained that town’s concerns. “While the Belmont Public Schools faced a reduction of ten positions and the elimination of curricular and co-curricular offerings at the high school, the Minuteman assessment for Belmont increased by a factor of 18% from the year before.” The letter notes that “an overwhelming majority of Town Meeting Members” supported a resolution “which empowers the Town of Belmont to formally reject any future budget which does not demonstrate a genuine, good faith effort to decrease per-pupil costs and overall operating expenses by a reasonable amount.” In a later phone conversation with Mosquito reporter Nancy Pierce, Leclerc said the proposed 2011 Minuteman reductions were reasonable and “substantial,” and Belmont will likely accept the budget for now.

The Finance Committee will hear a presentation on the Minuteman budget next Monday, February 1 at 7:15 p.m. ∆

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