Good morning! I thought I would share with you a copy of the transmittal letter that was sent by the Gorham School Committee to the Town Council along with the proposed FY 19 Gorham School Budget. This letter provides a succinct overview of the proposed FY 19 School Budget for those that might be interested in the "cliff notes" version of information!
A link to the full budget document is at the bottom of the page. Here's the letter:
April 19, 2018
To: Ephrem Paraschak, Town Manager & Members of the Gorham Town Council
From: Darryl Wright, Chair, Gorham School Committee
Re: FY 19 School Department Budget
Dear Mr. Paraschak & Town Council Members,
Enclosed and submitted for your review and consideration is the FY 19 School Department Budget that was approved by the School Committee on April 11, 2018 by a vote of 6-1.
This has been yet another challenging budget development year for the Gorham School Department. While we work to address the needs of our growing student populations, we are simultaneously seeing our state subsidy go down significantly due to our increasing property values and the state’s increase in the minimum mil expectation.
On the expenditure side of the budget, there are three key factors influencing our FY 19 proposed budget. Those are (1) maintaining costs associated with existing staff, (2) addressing the needs of our increasing student populations - especially at grades K-5, and (3) addressing the needs of our struggling learners through special education and other required student support services.
The cost to simply maintain our existing staff is approximately $920,000.00. This is due mostly to contracted salary increases (2.0% plus steps, GTA, 2.5% no steps Admin., 2.5% no steps Central Office Support, and two contracts that are still in negotiations - MBCC & SAA) as well as increases to health insurance (9%). In terms of our student populations, we are anticipating an increase of 77 students across grades K-12, but an increase of 96 students in just grades K-5. This has caused us to have to add 3 more K-5 classroom teachers and to add 2 portable classroom spaces (1 at GHS and 1 at Village Elem.). Our special education populations have grown from 342 students in 2010-11 (when we had a Director and an Assistant Director) to 355 students in 2017-18. Our numbers of students in 504 have grown from just 43 in 2010-11 to 121 in 2017-18, and our Gifted and Talented student population has also increased from 250 in 2010-11 to 319 in 2017-18.
Our per pupil expenditures (which are 12th out of 13 Cumberland County School Systems) were $13,811.00 per pupil in FY 18. If you add 77 students and multiply that times that per pupil amount you would expect an increase in the budget (with no other changes) of $1,063,447.00. The total projected increase in the budget for FY 19 is $1,666,912.00. The difference between these two figures is $603,465.00. This would be an increase of just 1.6% due to CPI. To us, this demonstrates that the problem with the FY 19 budget is NOT an expenditure problem, but a revenue problem.
On the revenue side of the budget, our challenges are significant. All told, Gorham is losing $1,282,170.00 in state subsidy in just one year! This loss of state subsidy is due mainly to things that are far outside of the School Department’s control. There are two key factors contributing to our loss of subsidy: (1) The increase of the minimum mil expectation, as set by the state annually, from 8.19 mils to 8.51 mils. This is the amount the state requires us to contribute locally in order to receive state subsidy dollars. (2) The increase of Gorham’s state property values by 6% between FY 18 and FY 19.
State property values are used by the State within the EPS funding formula to determine a community’s ability to pay for public education. As your property values go up, the state believes you can contribute more locally to fund public education. The increase in the min. mil expectation from 8.19 to 8.51 resulted in a loss of just over $500,000.00 in state subsidy. The difference between this figure and the total loss of $1,282,170.00 is primarily due to Gorham’s overall increase in state property values. In effect - a “double-whammy” for sure.
The School Committee, in consultation with the District Leadership Team, spent 5 grueling meetings (one full day Saturday) reviewing and analyzing our proposed FY 19 budget in great detail. Between both groups, we either deflected or cut almost $1.3 million dollars from the Superintendent’s original proposals.
This proposed budget totals $39,288,505 and represents a 4.43% increase in expenditures over the final approved FY 18 Budget of $37,621,593. This budget requires a 16.12% increase in the local appropriation. Assuming General Purpose Aid (GPA) is finalized at the proposed level, and the actual FY 18 property tax increases by a little over $30 million in FY 19, the impact of this budget on the mil rate is an increase of 13.96% or $1.55 on the mil. In review of the FY 19 budget summary page in the booklet you will see the increase in the local appropriation is $2,887,024.
During the past year, the School Department has continued to review all programs, personnel, facilities, and attendant infrastructure to assess their utility and their value in advancement of a high quality, comprehensive educational program for all our students. The School Department began a study of its K-5 school configurations this past spring, which resulted in a 40 page report distributed to the School Committee in November, 2017. The School Committee has worked on this report and determined that it needs to do additional study so that it may form a long term plan for our K-5 schools, which would inform how we want our schools to be configured in both the short and long term. The School Committee has commissioned a demographic study as well as a long range facilities planning study for our K-5 schools that we hope will inform this long range plan. Those studies will be completed in Fall of 2018.
With a dramatically shifting landscape at the state and local level, with our continued increasing enrollments, and with our need to maintain our aging facilities, the Gorham School Committee voted 6-1 to bring forward the proposed FY 19 budget to the Town Council. We believe it represents the funds necessary to continue to support the high quality educational services we strive to provide for our community’s most precious resource - its children.
We look forward to the joint TC/SC FY 19 Budget Workshop scheduled for May 15th, 2018. In the interim, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Finance Officer, Hollis Cobb and/or Superintendent, Heather Perry.
Darryl Wright, SC Chair
Here's the link to the FY 19 Proposed Gorham School Department Budget Booklet.