HANOVER — The South Shore Tech Regional School Committee certified by a 6-0 vote its $13,816,873 fiscal 2020 budget on Wednesday, Feb. 20. The vote satisfied the two-thirds margin required to pass — members John Manning, of Scituate and Robert Mahoney of Rockland were absent.
Hanson would be assessed $1,002,913 for the 76 students it sends to South Shore Tech or $13,196.22 per student.
Whitman’s assessment of $1,605,208 covers the second-highest number of students at the school — 145 — for a cost per student of $11,070.40. Only Rockland, with 159 students, sends more pupils to the school. Rockland’s assessment of $1,929,248 breaks down to $12,133.63 per student.
On the other end of the spectrum, Cohassett, with only three students at the school, would be assessed $56,033 or $18,677.70.
Superintendent-Director Dr. Thomas J. Hickey said he has already begun making the rounds of the district’s eight member towns to discuss the budget and assessments.
Overall, the towns are being asked to contribute $92,444 less in the aggregate, than last year, Hickey said.
“Those numbers sound good, something’s less, but it all comes down to what an individual community is being assessed,” he said. “Operationally, the budget did not go up very much, if you’re willing to set aside capital.”
Committee member Dan Salvucci of Whitman lauded the district for providing numbers on sending towns’ per-pupil costs.
“The one important factor that I would point out when looking at a per-pupil assessment is that, because we go to our communities with one number that includes capital and debt — if we were preparing a per-pupil cost to a K-12 district where the per-pupil costs might solely involve operating expenses of the school district — that debt might not normally be counted as part of a per-pupil expense,” Hickey said. “The numbers that Dan is referring to is simply our entire assessment, because we always go to the towns with one number.”
SST is anticipating a 70-percent regional transportation reimbursement rate.
Committee members also discussed transportation, specifically a cost of $238,660 per year in leases for the 12 new propane-fueled buses, paid in a lump sum each January, according to Secretary-Treasurer James Coughlin.
Member Robert L. Molla of Norwell asked why the cost was entered under leased equipment rather than transportation. Coughlin explained it was because of the five-year lease on the vehicles.
“The big factor is, when we do the end-of-the-year report for the DOR (Department of Revenue) and for DESE (Department of Elementary and Secondary Education), the leased equipment is part of transportation [for state reimbursement] … but for our purposes, we just segregate our regular transportation costs — our repairs and fuel and everything — into [the transportation] line,” he said.
Coughlin said it gives a clearer picture of the daily operating costs of the buses, separate from the lease costs.
“Seems like a hard way of doing it, but if it works, it works,” Molla said.
Hickey added that the three “newest” diesel buses remaining in the fleet — the three oldest diesel vehicles were a trade-in as part of the lease agreement — are used as spares and expected to last through the life of the lease.
“When the lease is over, we own those [propane] buses, so we’re in a pretty good position in terms of assets, and the ability to flip them into another lease or whatever the best decision at the time is for keeping some and letting some go,” Hickey said.
Farrell Propane fuels the buses on-site about twice a week.
“A couple of times already since January, at 5:15 a.m., Mr. Hickey has texted me being very thankful that we have propane buses because they turn right over,” said Principal Mark Aubrey. “We do not need diesels and we do not need to plug them in, so there is an added benefit, they turn right over and they are nice and warm for the students when they get on the buses, so it’s a win for everybody.”
Coughlin added that the propane buses save the district, which had been spending $90,000 per year on maintenance of the diesel fleet, as maintenance and fuel costs for the propane vehicles are much lower.