HANOVER — South Shore Regional Vocational-Technical School Committee held its public hearing on the proposed $12.9 million fiscal 2018 budget Wednesday, Jan. 25 — about six hours after Gov. Charlie Baker released his $40.5 billion budget proposal with information on his plans for funding education.
“There’s a portion of the budget where we get the governor’s perspective on what each community’s [or district’s] Chapter 70 aid entails and what the minimum contributions are,” said Superintendent-Director Dr. Thomas J. Hickey. “Despite me presenting a budget which is an increase of 3.3 percent, that number is not relevant when one wants to ask about individual [community] assessments.”
SSVT District Treasurer James Coughlin said the 3.3 percent reflects a total budget increase of $464,000 with member towns asked to pick up only $197,000 of that increase.
“Overall, we’ve been using other revenue sources to fund these increases to try to keep the amount of increases for our towns to a minimum,” he said. “The assessments at this point in time are preliminary. If there are any changes, up to the point in time when we can make changes, we will do that.”
He said changes would be more difficult as June 1 approaches.
Baker’s budget proposes increases in both unrestricted local aid and education, through Chapter 70 state aid to “historic levels,” according to a statement from his office.
House 1 proposes a $91.4 million increase in Chapter 70 aid — at least $20 more per pupil for school districts.
South Shore Tech’s Chapter 70 aid is expected to be $4,301,030 — or $53,470 over fiscal 2017 — according to the preliminary figures. The district also anticipates $318,750 in non-resident tuition (up from $159,627 in the current budget) and $355,000 in regional transportation aid ($55,000 more).
Only one member of Abington’s Finance Committee, Vice Chairman Eligijus Suziedeis, attended the budget and neither he nor committee member asked questions. Hickey said he visits all eight communities to discuss the budget before town meetings.
“It’s all preliminary, of course, it’s just the beginning of the state budget process,” Hickey said in providing an early glimpse of projected preliminary assessments for the eight member towns.
Three communities — Abington, Norwell and Rockland — will likely see lower assessments based on enrollment numbers, while the other five, including Whitman and Hanson, would see higher assessments.
For Hanson, where enrollment numbers were unchanged, the assessment would be projected at $938,030. In Whitman, that figure is forecast to be $1,429,657.
Assessments are based on a formula including minimum contribution, operating costs, capital costs and debt offset by nonresident tuition, Hickey explained.
Coughlin said the budget increase includes $4,974,780 in preliminary revenue from sources other than assessments.
“That leaves the number we have to go to our member towns to ask for — 7,945,436,” Coughlin said, a figure up by $197,267 over the current budget.
In other business, the district’s auditor Bruce D. Norling reported he has given the South Shore Regional School District a “clean opinion” for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2016.
“Everything was materially stated correctly and the controls and we found no exceptions,” Norling said. “Jim [Coughlin] has a small department, but a very good department. I find the department is very conscientious about documentation of expenditures and making sure revenue is recorded properly. The internal controls are operating very well.”
He said the organization has been very responsible with budgeting over the years.
Hickey also reported that SSVT’s statement of interest to the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA), for funds to renovate and expand the school building, was not accepted this year.
“My numbers tell me that 89 statements of interest were submitted statewide from 58 different school districts,” Hickey said. “Only 17 of those projects were accepted. … The projects they are prioritizing are those in which the school districts are saying there is extreme overcrowding present or serious health and safety issues present. We can claim neither of those.”
He will bring back another statement of interest motion for the committee to vote before the April 8 deadline for the next round of funding.
“We as a school district are not going to artificially overcrowd this building [to win approval from MSBA],” Hickey said. “We will never let the building fall into disrepair. So, my hope is that one day there will be a sufficient prioritization and available resources to allow the MSBA to go deeper into the bullpen of statements of interest.”