FROM THE WESTBOROUGH SCHOOL COMMITTEE
In response to parental questions, we’d like to provide some context for our decision last spring to raise fees at Gibbons Middle School and the High School. The decision was the result of lengthy discussions at several televised, public School Committee meetings and was publicized in the local media.
When we reviewed data from neighboring communities, we found that our fees were significantly lower. For example, Shrewsbury charges $290/sport with a family cap of $870 AND a bus fee of $250/student with a $500 family cap. Further comparison data can be found here:
We did not link the cost of a particular program to the fee charged because our primary goal was to add revenue to the aggregate school budget. Public schools can’t charge all 2nd grade families $200 to maintain a teacher for that grade, even though many parents might want to contribute for that purpose. Rather, schools can only raise revenue through fees on “non-mandated” items such as extra-curricular activities or transportation for students in grades 7-12 or grades K-6 who live less than 2 miles from their school. While we understand the increased fees put a burden on families, we hope that the fees can be viewed in part as a way to support all the facets of your child’s education.
The decision to increase fees was made as part of our larger budget deliberations, which also included many cost-saving measures, some of which are detailed here: Most notably, we’ve reduced staff by 6% over the past 5 years despite a slight rise in enrollment, leading to increased class sizes, and have reduced or maintained all supplies and materials at a 0% increase the past 4 years. If we hadn’t increased fees, we would have been forced to cut more personnel and eliminate entire programs. We continually seek to improve all our policies and welcome suggestions from parents and the wider community on this and any issue. Please know that financial assistance is always available to qualifying families. For a confidential request, contact Nicole Reed at firstname.lastname@example.org or 508-836-7720 ext. 5201.
Why are school districts across the country struggling financially? Each year schools receive state and federal money. For this school year, Westborough received $1,250,000 less in state/federal aid than we received for the 2008-2009 school year and $675,000 less than we received last year. At the same time, mandated programs have increased. For a list of unfunded and underfunded mandates - click here.
Under Superintendent Marianne O’Connor’s leadership, everyone in the Westborough schools is continually searching for ways to conserve resources while having the least impact on the quality of our educational product. Our school employees, 40% of whom are Westborough residents, have been partners in this endeavor. For instance, the Westborough Education Association led the way for all school and town employees by agreeing to health care concessions in 2010, resulting in a 7.2% decrease in the Town’s overall insurance line item from Fiscal 2010 to Fiscal 2013. Despite the belt-tightening, Westborough remains one of the highest-achieving school districts in Massachusetts.
The School Committee, as a dedicated group of volunteers, welcomes your participation in the process as we begin our budget preparations on November 7th for the 2012-2013 school year, which will culminate in a vote at Town Meeting in March 2013. Our meeting schedule and minutes from recent meetings can be found here:
Westborough School Committee
Stephen Doret, Vice Chair
Ilyse Levine-Kanji, Chair