Thursday, May 23, 2013

The True Cost of Quality Education in Longmeadow

At the Annual Town Meeting earlier this month there was significant debate about the Select Board approved cuts of $726K from the School Dept FY2014 proposed budget. School Superintendent Marie Doyle armed with charts and other information described how the budget as approved by the Select Board was going to have a significant effect on the quality of education in Longmeadow.  Article #6- the FY14 budget was then amended by the Town Meeting members to provide for an additional $353K of funding.  I spoke during the debate on this amendment so I thought that it would be worthwhile to share my comments with other town residents who may not have attended this meeting.  Below is a video excerpt of my remarks (courtesy of LCTV) with the cited tables inserted.

As mentioned in the above video, there are significant school related line items in the overall budget that are not usually considered when the School Dept budget is being reviewed.  These items include School Dept Employee + Retiree Benefits (including Health Care, Insurance, etc.) and Debt Service (Interest + Principal repayment on school project bonds).  As you can see from Table I below the cost of these items is not trivial.
Table I- The Total Cost of Delivering a Quality Education
-click to enlarge table-
During the past two years, the total cost of delivering a quality education in Longmeadow has increased by $4.8 million or 13.2%- a large portion of this increase is the debt service for our new high school.  Given that the School Maintenance is not listed here but is included within the Town Govt budget, the true cost of delivering a quality education in Longmeadow is even higher than that shown in Table I.

I get a little annoyed when I hear a town resident or a member of the School Committee claim that the town and many of its residents do not support its schools.  Our property taxes which can be seen in the chart below have increased significantly over the past two years primarily because of the new high school construction and increases in the cost of education. (Read an earlier Longmeadow Buzz blog post for additional information on property taxes.)

Table II- Longmeadow Property Taxes
-click to enlarge chart-

Over the next ten years, this recent increase in total education costs will translate to almost $50 million in taxpayer money.

With all of the pressing infrastructure needs of our town ranging from streets/sidewalks to a new DPW facility and middle school renovation/new building, our school department needs to find a way to reduce the cost of delivering their services.

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