This site aims to inform and mobilize Beverly parents to take an active role in all issues related to the funding and operation of the city's schools. It was launched in the spring of 2008, when the city saw its first-ever override attempt fail, followed by the closure of a nearly-new elementary school. Subsequent years have seen further cuts that have led to larger class sizes across the district. While the opening of an impressive new high school and plans to replace the city's aging middle school give us reason to be optimistic, the school community must be ever vigilant in demanding appropriate school funding by city and state governments, and better community communications from the district and School Committee.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Budget Shortfall Survey

Superintendent Galinski has posted this Budget Shortfall Survey on the district website. She is seeking the community's input into ways to deal with the latest budget deficit, [see update at bottom of this post] and opinions on some long-term restructuring ideas.

Dr. Galinski begins her introduction to the survey by quantifying what years' of previous cuts have already meant for the district:
Beverly Public Schools budget has been shrinking since 2006, yet costs continue to go up driven by the fact that everything costs more over time. As an example, we now pay $14,345.00 for health insurance for one staff member compared to $9,358.00 in 2006.

I think that it is important that you know where our money comes from and how we spend it. Of the 44 million dollars that we received last year, about 37 million was from local property taxes and 7 million was from the State. In addition, we received about 4 million dollars in federal and state grants. Of the 44 million dollars, 68% went to salaries and benefits for teachers and staff, 7% went to administrative costs, and 25% was spent on operations.

Five years of continuous cuts and we are operating on a bare bones budget.
Respondents are asked to rate the relative importance of a range of programs, staffing positions, and educational priorities, and are presented with several potential proposals, many that would involve major structural changes.

These include several variations on the oft-mentioned Early Childhood Center concept, redistricting of the elementary schools, views on open-enrollment and the importance of neighborhood schools, and even a proposal to move the 5th graders to Briscoe.

The survey also attempts to gauge the public's awareness of the following facts, many of which are at the root of the current situation:
  • State funding for public schools (Chapter 70) was decreased by 8% this year (FY'11) and is likely to be cut by at least 5% next year (FY'12)?
  • Special Education is mandated by the State for students ages 3-22?
  • Costs for special education students range from $10,000-68,000 when served in the district and could be as high as $223,000 if the student is served elsewhere?
  • Special Education reimbursement from the state (Circuit Breaker) is underfunded for this year (FY'11) by $1,000,000?
  • The cost of Health Care for BPS staff has risen by 35% or $1.6 million
  • Beverly Public Schools has permanently reduced 40 staff and 15 administrative positions in the last 10 years to control cost increases and decreases in revenues?
The survey will be active from January 11-28.

1/13 UPDATE: There has been some concern and confusion over some of the questions posed in the above survey from members of the school community. Responding to some of these concerns at a PTO meeting this week, Dr. Galinski clarified that this survey was drawn up with the FY12 and future years' budget gaps in mind, rather than the shortage in the current year’s budget.

These ideas are meant to be long-tern solutions to deal with the ongoing structural deficit, rather than short-term fixes. Many of the proposals in here are ideas that came out of the Strategic Planning subcommittees.

We share the concerns of many that the questions individually are confusing and hard to answer without knowing the related implications that each would create. Many of the categories seem unrelated. But given the state of public school funding in the current environment, this is a conversation that is unfortunately necessary, and we appreciate Dr. Galinski’s willingness to involve the entire community in the early stages of these discussions.

We also urge all concerned parents to attend or watch next Tuesday's City Council meeting when Dr. Galinski will discuss the issues pertaining to the current year's budget problems.

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