ORR Budget Concerns Top Agenda

Selectmen from Rochester, Marion, and Mattapoisett met Wednesday at Old Rochester Regional High School, and the main issue discussed was the proposed ORR District budget for fiscal year 2014.

According to Superintendent Doug White, the district is awaiting the decision of state officials to see how much the district will receive before they implement their proposed budget, passed during Town Meetings last month.

“The whole process puts us behind the 8-ball,” White said.  “We’re concerned about the amount of money coming in.  It’s very important to us that we build our budget.”

Currently, the district estimated funding from the state would be $2,739,000, while the Governor’s budget is $3,333,082, the House budget proposal is $2,868,513, and the Senate budget Proposal is $3,017,802. There could be a gap in expected aid and actual aid.

The schools proposed spending budget currently is $16,854,574, and that includes the School Choice program, which was a topic of conversation among the members present.  White was adamant that the program, which allows a certain number of students from other districts to attend schools within this region, is pivotal in keeping the current curriculum in place.

“We’ve been looking at this budget and looking at what is necessary to provide high-quality education in this region,” White said. “We still have an ability to change our number if need be.”

White said that depending on what the state decides on, the district might have to borrow money from the district’s Excess and Deficiencies Account, which is basically a savings account for the district’s schools.  He said that the amount would like fall between 3 and 3.5 percent of the total in the account, which currently has about $839,000 in it.

White also mentioned the possibility of a potential six layoffs within the district should they have to make up for money they initially expected from the state but that now is not likely to come through.

“There are many districts across the state with the same problem,” said White, while fielding questions from many members of the Boards.

Rochester Town Administrator Richard LaCamera expressed concerns that the individual towns would struggle to come up with the extra money should Patrick’s proposal change from the initial Governor’s Budget Proposal.

“I’m just raising a red flag,” LaCamera said.  “It’s going to be a serious problem next year.”

White added that the Patrick administration is expected to take action by the end of June.

By Nick Walecka

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