During the March 3 meeting of the Rochester School Committee, Chairman Tina Rood told members, “The piece about the override is not positive to everyone….”
Rood had recently attended the Old Rochester Regional school district budget meeting on February 29. That summit meeting included finance committee members and administrators from the Tri-Town. The possibility of a proposition 2½ override to offset the budget had been suggested by school committee members; however, it was not warmly received by the towns, she said.
“We only have property,” Rood said in explaining how Rochester supports the schools’ budgets, primarily through the assessment of real estate taxes. “It may be time to look at that override in addressing costs in a long term way and that our selectmen and administrator look at that for our schools,” she continued. “It’s time to consider what is right for our schools,” she told the school committee members.
Superintendent Douglas White added, “The ability to raise funds are slim.”
White said the towns were pushing the ORR district for OPEB (other post-employment benefits) planning. The looming financial specter of increasing post-employment commitment for those who have and will be retiring from the school system now stands at $15 million, White told the committee. “But we have little or no ability to fund that,” he added.
Business Administrator Patrick Spencer said, “Five or ten years down the road these costs will come home to roost … but we have no feasible way to fund them.”
White said the FY17 ORR operating budget sits at $17.5 million, a 2.9 percent increase.
Rochester’s local school budget stands at $5.9 million, Spencer said, a 2.4 percent increase.
Cut from the FY17 proposed budget is a health teacher, coupled with various cost-cutting strategies in the operating budget. Spencer also noted that the current $200,000 Chapter 70 surplus would be reduced to $70,000 in 2017.
Regarding the proposed 2017 school calendar, committee member Sharon Hartley stood firm in her resolve that half day scheduling was inefficient in both teaching students and giving teachers adequate time for training programs.
“Education suffers and full days are better for staff development,” she said.
The next meeting of the Rochester School Committee is scheduled for April 7 at 6:30 pm in the Rochester Town Hall meeting room during which the Rochester Memorial School budget will be vetted.
By Marilou Newell