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The Douglas Public Schools offer diverse learning experiences that meet the academic, social, physical, and emotional needs of all students. We provide a safe, supportive, and challenging learning environment in which students may achieve academic success and personal growth. Decisions are made in the best interest of students.

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Posted in the Blackstone Valley Express on April 23, 2018

Response to questions presented to Superintendent Maines on Proposition 2 ½ Override

  1. What specific town and school services were cut or not funded in the base budget?

    The Douglas Public Schools generated a level service budget to the Douglas School Committee of $13,323,523 on February 14, 2018. The school district received an appropriation of $12,679,853 from the Town. This appropriation was $209,484 less than our FY2018 budget appropriation and was $119,025 less than our FY2017 appropriation. The appropriation of $12,679,853 was $643,670 below our level service budget proposal. The FY2019 House 2 Governor’s Budget Chapter 70 increase for Douglas was $29,200 at $20 per student. To remain stable and meet our level service proposal budget request of $13,323,523, the district and School Committee took the following steps. Collectively our schools made cuts to budget lines in the area of supplies, materials, ancillaries and textbooks of $132,358. We then made the decision to utilize additional dollars from revolving fund balances and revenues to meet the financial need for a level served budget. This resulted in the district taking an additional $111,312 from the Circuit Breaker Reimbursement account as an offset to this shortfall. We then decided to take an additional $400,000 from the School Choice Tuition account to get the required $643,670 budgetary shortfall. By making this commitment, no staff or programs were cut from the Douglas Public Schools; keeping the promise made by the School Committee to support level service within our schools. This strategy cannot happen again, as we move forward and as these accounts have been spent down to a level that effectively compromises the district’s ability to respond financially to any major issue that may arise.

     

  2. What were the largest drivers in the budget decisions? Increased requests for BVT, Norfolk Ag students, school choice-out, pensions, insurance?

    The largest driver in the budget is not expenditure issues but revenue issues. For the past seven years the school district has been faced with level service budget’s that cannot be funded. As a result, the district was obligated to conduct academic service within the appropriated dollar amount. To get this number the school was forced to make staffing and program cuts to all schools resulting in larger class sizes, reduced program offerings and scaled back purchases of textbooks, ancillary materials and supplies. This consistent budgetary uncertainty result in the beginning of a dangerous trend of greater numbers of students and parents opting to take their children out of the Douglas Public Schools and enrolling them in other public school districts, private and parochial schools, online schools, B.V.T. and Norfolk Agricultural. This impacts the districts Chapter 70 appropriation while adversely impacting the town side by spending more dollars to these schools for Douglas students.

     

  3. How will the override money be spent, if it passes?

    This is dependent upon the Finance Committee’s final determination of how they determine the best means of distribution of override revenues to support all departments within the town, as well as addressing capital needs. The Board of Selectman have voted to appropriate the entirety of the school departments budgetary shortfall of $643,670. If the override passes and the Finance Committee agree with the dispersion of $643,670 to the school department, the district will return the $111,312 back to the Circuit Breaker Reimbursement account. It could simply return the $400,000 additional draw from School Choice tuition revolving account and utilize the $132,358 to make requested needs in textbooks, ancillaries and supplies to the accounts they were cut from. This would keep the school level funded and in a better financial position to deal with any unanticipated expenses that occur. The administrative team would carefully review all options to address areas of need within the district and bring them forward to School Committee for review and vote. Any decisions that are made would be reflective of the district working to ensure that it is competitive with other school districts in the valley while trying to instill confidence within the community that the district is stable and competitive to begin to reverse the choice out trend that began three years ago.

     

  4. If the override does not pass, what are the ramifications for future years? Will more services be cut? Will there be a danger that the Town will go into receivership?

    If the override does not pass, the school District will be severely limited in its ability to address budgetary shortfalls through additional use of Circuit Breaker and School Choice dollars so the only response would be to again cut staff, increase class sizes and cut if not eliminate programs; as has been done in previous years. This will hearten the choice out numbers and the adverse financial impacts upon the schools and the town serving to compound the financial crisis within the town.

     

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  7. Some residents have said that the “roof didn’t cave in” the last time an override did not pass. What’s different this time?

    This is a common refrain; to which it is important to be aware of how the school district has addressed these budgetary shortfalls. We have addressed it with a critical eye to minimizing to the greatest extent possible the adverse impacts that these shortfalls have upon our students and our schools. We have cut staff and increased class sizes to where 28-30 students in Primary and Elementary classrooms became a norm. These of course are well above state and federal guidelines and compromises student learning and teacher effectiveness. We have eliminated all funding for athletic and music programs. They survived only because the boosters took on the majority of funding for these programs. The district raised athletic user fees from $150 with individual/family caps to $300 per student with no individual/family caps. The district implemented a user fee program for participation in the band and choral programs at $50 and $75 if participating in both programs. The band boosters have consistently funded a significant portion of needed funding to keep the programs running. The district has drawn down its Circuit Breaker and School Choice accounts to add additional funding to the operating budget. This is a policy that is not sustainable. Good people kept “Rome From Burning” and the community perceives this as the “Roof Not Caving In” but the district has taken extraordinary steps to keep the roof propped up, but it is clearly sagging.

     

  8. What can the schools do to credibly compete with BVT and neighboring school systems, so that students will choice in?

    Please know that in 2012-2013 there were 70 more choice in than choice out students in the Douglas Public Schools. This indicates that we were doing an excellent job of more than credibly competing with Valley schools including B.V.T. and Norfolk. There were 110 choice-in students, 40 choice-out students, 72 students at B.V.T. and 0 students at Norfolk. In 2014-2015 those numbers were 135 choice-in students, 39 choice-out students, 79 students at B.V.T. and 1 student at Norfolk. These numbers reflect very favorably upon how competitive the district was and that parents and students wanted to keep their children in the Douglas Public Schools. It also shows that parents and students from other communities wanted to attend the Douglas Public Schools. However in the 2015-2016 school year drastic cuts to staffing and programs adversely impacted this very positive trend. The numbers in 2017-218 are 110 choice-in students, 76 choice-out students, 110 students attending B.V.T. and 8 students attending Norfolk. What changed? Staff cuts, program cuts and negative impacts of having 7 straight years of high budgetary shortfalls which told people we cannot fund our staff, our programs and our school communities.

     

  9. What other observations should be made regarding these budget choices?

These shortfalls have been real for 7 years and were not seen as such and as a result the impacts have continued to compound while have adverse impacts upon our schools and community. The school choice trend will only reverse when we are consistently stable with appropriate funding. The school district is 100% committed to not allow “Rome to Burn”. We are committed to being a strong and competitive school district that will continue to work towards moving the district forward and being a broad-based district that provides all students with quality 21st Century education that allows are students to be college and career ready. The community needs to see the value in this mission and provide the greatest level of support for our schools as possible.

 

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