Old Rochester Regional proposes 2013 budget with minimal cuts

By Jennifer Heshion | Mar 05, 2012
Superintendent Doug White presented a budget proposal with seven staff cuts as opposed to the 15 proposed last month.

Mattapoisett — With a $495,282 shortfall in the 2013 budget, the Old Rochester Regional School Committee has recouped all but $1,700 of the needed funds with seven staffing cuts and renegotiations of maintenance contracts.

Last month, the committee presented their proposal for the 2013 budget, which sought to address the near $500,000 needed in additional funds to maintain services and staff with nearly 15 staffing cuts.

On Monday, March 5 Superintendent Doug White presented a revised proposal during a public hearing with concerned parents.

Due to utilities savings, transportation savings and two teacher retirements, the school committee has been able to find the needed funds for the coming school year.

“We were able to do some things and get some support from the town to maintain our services for the most part,” White said.

White said that the school’s budget subcommittee will ask the town of Mattapoisett for the remaining $1,700 during the May Town Meeting.

With the help of facilities manager, Steve Murphy, the school committee has been reviewing how energy is used in the building and cutting back on unnecessary costs for a savings of $26,420.

Other savings have been seen in transportation costs.

Due to a renegotiated contract with the school’s bus service providers, Braga Transportation, the 2013 bus rates will be rolling back to the less costly rates the school had paid in 2011.

The budget does include a cut of seven paraprofessional staff members to account for the shortfall.

“When you’re looking at a near $500,000 cut you have to go to people and look at teachers,” White said.

The three towns in the district – Marion, Mattapoisett and Rochester – will also see a rise in their enrollment-based assessments to the junior and senior high schools.

Under the current agreement with the three towns, each town is assessed a portion of the junior and senior high schools’ budgets.

Marion will be asked to pay an additional $24,160, Mattapoisett will be asked for $495 and Rochester will be refunded $10,301 due to a reduced number of students from the town enrolled at Old Rochester Regional.

The higher assessments serve to help with the increased costs for services at both the junior and senior high schools White said.

Under a foundation budget the state calculates what is needed for each school district to maintain educational services.

The state, White said, has required that Old Rochester Regional spend at least $10 million in 2013.

“The three towns of Marion, Mattapoisett and Rochester have always supported education far above that level,” White said.

To do this, White said the towns will need to come up with an additional $2 million to be divided among the towns.

School Committee Chair Dr. Peter Bangs said spending more than what the state requires has been the standard for the three towns.

“The state mandates the towns spend $10 million, but the towns have always opted that we spend more for the quality of education,” Bangs said. “The three towns have, for years and years, really supported all of the schools here.”

School Committee member Charles Motta commended the work of White and his administration in reorganizing the school’s departments and services as opposed to cutting those services and staff.

“[White] is dealing with four school systems and a school committee and I think he’s done a great job,” Motta said. “Boston magazine rated Mattapoisett very high as one of the best districts in the Commonwealth and this [budget proposal] shows the effort to keep the courses and student activities.”

Bangs also offered his appreciation.

“We’re almost $500,000 short of what it takes to run programs here and by shuffling money around, [White and his staff] have done this in such a way so it doesn’t affect the students,” Bangs said.

“Our intent is to maintain as many programs here as possible for our many diverse students. We don’t want to see programs cut. We juggle money around so the students who come here next year will see the same things the students this year see.”

The school committee will meet on March 14 to discuss a final proposal to be presented before Town Meeting.

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