FY22 Schools Budgets Discussed

            Coming before the Mattapoisett Finance Committee on April 7 were Old Rochester Regional School District Assistant Superintendent of Finance and Operations Howie Barber and Superintendent Mike Nelson to discuss the FY22 budgets that have been unanimously approved by the school committees.

            Barber spoke expansively on the details of the budget and the bottom line. For Center School, the FY22 budget is $3,041,951, or $109,585 over FY21, and Old Hammondtown School’s FY22 budget is $2,293,418, or a $13,500 increase over FY21. For these schools, the all-in number, which includes transportation and other institutional expenses, is $7,823,908, an increase of $312,035 over FY21.

            The ORRHS FY22 budget is $7,205,699, an increase of $109,585 over FY21, and the ORRJHS FY22 budget is $4,674,923, or $144,658 over FY21. The all-in number, which includes transportation and central office expenses, is $21,174,638, a 2.423-percent increase over FY21.

            FinCom Chairman Pat Donoghue asked about increases to line items covering utility costs, wondering if those had been paid by funding from the CARES Act. Barber said that, given the necessity to run ventilation systems continuously, grant monies had been used but moving forward were no longer available. “Day-to-day operational costs are up.” He went to say CARES Act funding, which reimburses municipalities for non-budgeted, pandemic-related expenses, had paid for such materials as masks, HVAC filters, cleaning supplies, and cleaning services. Barber also said that Chromebooks were purchased for remote learning and that more substitute teachers were hired as well. “CARES funding paid for one-time things and didn’t pay for staffing,” he said.

            Donoghue said that each year the schools’ budgets went up, “but it doesn’t tell me if those increases are warranted.” She said that per-pupil costs are 25 percent higher than nearly all other public schools on the south coast or south shore. “Most schools are at $13,000 (per student), Mattapoisett is at $18,000.” She asked Barber for a per-student breakdown.

            Regarding reduced student enrollment, of the 41 students exiting the system, Donoghue asked if those students would be returning when district schools fully reopen later this month. Nelson responded that at this time no one knows. But, as if acknowledging there is a bigger question regarding student enrollment, he said, “We know this needs to be looked at, needs to be examined.”

            Donoghue dovetailed off Nelson’s response, saying, “We tend to gloss over our aging population, but we need data to decide how we are going to spend our dollars.”

            There was some discussion about ORRHS offering a vocational-type curriculum as an incentive to stay in the system for students seeking certificate courses such as for daycare positions.

            Donoghue also asked if the long-awaited capital needs list had been drafted yet. Barber said he had forwarded it to Facilities Director Gene Jones but would send one out to the committee. Nelson interjected, “We need to have a high-level discussion about capital needs.” Donoghue said, “We need to see the whole list of needs.” She said that she was aware that the “field people” (i.e., the committee formed to pursue improvement to the high school playing fields) would be coming back, but in the absence of a complete list of capital needs, that singular item could not be considered.

            The next meeting of the Mattapoisett Finance Committee was not scheduled upon adjournment.

Mattapoisett Finance Committee

By Marilou Newell

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