2016-04-22 / Letters

Windfall obscures budget realities

To the editor:

Town leaders are anxious to have the June school budget referendum sail through without a discouraging word. And at first glance, a total tax rate increase of 3.3% doesn’t appear outrageous. However, if you look into what is producing that apparent- ly modest increase, you will quickly discover the budget’s dirty little secret.

The FY 2017 school budget includes a one-time windfall of $1.6 million of revenue that arose because we borrowed too much money for the Wentworth School project. That windfall disguises the financial impact of two major realities in the budget. First, the budget includes a decrease of $1.1 million in state education aid in FY 2017. Based on existing trends, our share of state aid is expected to continue to decrease by significant amounts in FY 2018 and beyond. Second, the FY 2017 school budget includes nearly $600,000 of new expenses (primarily the cost of hiring 6 new teachers). These expenses become a permanent part of the expense budget in future years.

Essentially, the one-time windfall from the excess Wentworth borrowing is offsetting – for one year only – the continuing impact of significant state aid reductions and school expense increases. There will be no windfall in FY 2018 or beyond. But the underlying state aid reductions and expense increases will continue with nothing to offset them. Without the $1.6 million windfall in FY 2017, taxpayer funding of the schools would have increased by a staggering 9.7 percent. And huge increases are all but guaranteed for FY 2018 and beyond. The FY 2017 school budget is a Band-Aid. The pain will occur when we have to rip it off in FY 2018 and beyond.

Please be sure to completely understand the full impact of the proposed school budget before making your judgment on it.

Steve Hanly

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