An Overview of the FY17 Budget Discussion

On March 6th, the School Committee met with the Superintendent, each of the principals, both Assistant Superintendents, and the Director of Technology to discuss what the needs of the school district are, in light of the budget being presented to the School Committee by the Superintendent and her team. 

Superintendent Taymore presented a ‘level service budget’ initially on February 23, 2016 (her remarks here) which is to say that the services currently rendered to our children are to be level or the same as last year. Differentiate this with a ‘level funded budget,’ in which amount of money is the same as the previous year but does not account for rising costs due to out-of-district placements, increased personnel costs, or other associated cost increases. To explain it a different way, one describes maintaining services as they are, at their current levels, regardless of associated costs, while the other takes cost into consideration first, then adjusts the level of services to fit within those costs.

A little background:

FY 16. The total budget for Melrose Public Schools for FY16 was $28125,696. Of that, fees and grants accounted for $2,953,500. The City of Melrose appropriated $25,172,196 to MPS.

FY17. The City of Melrose has an estimated appropriation to MPS for FY17 of $25,675,640 or an increase of $503,000 over FY16. The Superintendent and her team has estimated fees and grant funding will be $2,903,500 or a $50,000 decrease in grants and fees.This gives an initial allotment of $28,579,140. By contrast, the estimated allotment required for level services is $29,580,849, with $1,001,709 unfunded.

Please review the FY17 proposed budget spreadsheet here.

There are some costs that are contractual and non-negotiable, namely personnel and contracted services. Let’s look at the personnel piece first.

To keep the staffing at the same levels as FY16, and to absorb expected ‘step and lane’ increases (salary increases for current staff who have increased their level of education, termed lanes, or have achieved certain levels of longevity in years, referred to as steps), the personnel salary obligations are estimated to be $25,489,516. To accommodate new staff for advancing students and meet needs of current student population, the district has requested an additional $278,869 for a total personnel obligation of $25,881,303 or 87.5% of the budget.

Those services that are contractually obligated included Special Education out of district tuition, various dues for MPS sports and related-transportation, technology licences amongst other things. The total cost associated with these obligations is $2,872,233 or 9.7% of the budget.

The total funds required to meet our contractual obligations then is $28,753,536 or 97.2% of the requested funds for a level service budget. I want to note here that this is already over the initial allotted amount of $28,579,140 the city and MPS estimate available for the FY17 budget.

So what’s left? The remaining $827,313 in the requested allotment for FY17 by MPS addresses curriculum material needs, consumables, and various small item tech needs. The bulk of these funds, more that $700,000, are curriculum materials.

The task before the School Committee and the entirety of the Melrose Public School Community is daunting.

Do we raise fees on some combination of:

  • athletics
  • ECC
  • extracurriculars like MHS Band/Drama/Chorus

Do we cut staff, eliminating initially the ‘open positions’ and further reduce staffing, with the understanding that class sizes will increase to compensate?

I am keen to increase our Special Education staffing to reduce out of district placements, which may give some costs savings. I am also interested in the possibility of shuffling students to buildings that can accommodate a larger population, but this only addresses student population needs and will still require staff to put in front of those students. I am uncertain how much, if any, cost savings can be realized there.

What are your priorities? Please tell fill out the survey below.