“What does it take to educate our students here at Old Rochester?” asked ORR Superintendent Doug White the night of March 3, upon presenting the fiscal year 2015 revised draft to the committee and to the public.
It will take $17,060,868 to be exact. This is an increase of $206,294 or 1.22% from FY14, a significantly lower figure than the first ORR FY15 budget draft presented in January that originally projected an $828,000 increase from the FY14 budget.
“This is the largest increase we’ve asked from the three towns [in four years] since FY10, which was $211.395,” said White.
The local contribution of each of the three towns, which the Commonwealth requires the district to spend, is mandated at $10,659,228. The three Towns will be spending $13,340,599 next year.
Enrollment as of October 1, 2013 determines the size of each town’s piece of the pie.
Rochester, with the highest number of students at ORR, 427, will be responsible for $4,147,586 – an increase of $143,650 from last year.
Mattapoisett’s assessment is set at $4,470,450 for its 380 students, a decrease in $104,650 from FY14, and Marion’s assessment is $3,782,733 for its 325 students – a decrease of $76,189.
State aid in the form of Chapter 70 funds and transportation reimbursement, along with school choice revenue and other miscellaneous areas of income, will account for balancing another small piece of the proverbial pie. The district is also using $325,000 from the Excess and Deficiency Fund to balance the budget.
Roughly 60% of the budget is attributed to spending on personnel, so when the district is asked to make cuts, “Where do you end up going?” asked White. “Personnel.” He said this is how it is, really, because there simply is nowhere else in the budget from which it is possible to cut back.
White stated that salaries, benefits, and health insurance account for roughly $15 million of the budget. Supplies account for just about $400,000, shared by over 1,100 students.
Several staff positions were chiseled out to balance the FY15 budget, including two non-teaching professionals at the junior high, a special education paraprofessional at the high school, and a shared maintenance staff person.
The number of full-time teachers at ORR will drop to 44.20 next year, down by about six.
Classroom sizes will increase a bit in most areas, prompting ORRJHS Principal Kevin Brogioli to point out, “It is the highest case load for teachers in the district.” Some class sizes increased to 24, despite additional sections being added to the core academics.
High School teacher Colin Everett gave his opinion on where the district should look to cut costs further in order to avoid making cuts to areas like paraprofessional staffing – positions, he said “with the most direct impact on the students.”
Everett suggested the district review recent legislation changes that allow school districts to share the costs of retiree health benefits with other school districts in which the retiree also worked during their career.
Everett also encouraged the committee to consider using more funds from the Excess and Deficiency Fund, which currently has about $550,000, instead of waiting to use it for a rainy day.
“Use it like it’s raining now,” Everett told the superintendent and committee members.
White stated that, although nearing its final draft, the committee is not taking a vote on the budget until the March 12 meeting that is scheduled at 6:00 pm at ORRHS, and will take Everett’s suggestions under consideration.
By Jean Perry