Sandwich School News

News and dialogue about Sandwich Public Schools

It’s town budget season, and once again, the Sandwich School Committee is struggling to bridge a budget gap.

Doesn’t it seem like we go through this exercise every March? At times like this, I can’t help but think of Yogi Bera. “It’s like deja-vu, all over again,” he would say.

Here are the specifics that apply this time around:

  • Currently, there’s a gap of about $313,000 in the FY13 school budget. What does that mean? Well, at this point in the budget process, both the Board of Selectmen and the School Committee have budgets on the table. The Board of Selectmen say the Town can budget X for the schools. The School Committee says the schools need X + $313,000. So, at the moment, we’re left with a $313,000 gap.
  • At last week’s School Committee meeting, the Superintendent presented three options to close the gap. The school district could:
    1. Eliminate four staff positions.
    2. Impose a transportation fee.
    3. Use a portion of future school choice funds.
  • After much debate, the School Committee decided to further explore options two and three. The Committee asked for additional guidance from the Finance Committee on the feasibility of using a portion of future school choice funds. As for the transportation fees, the School Committee is considering:
    • a $100 fee for students Grades 7-12 who ride the bus and
    • a $100 fee for high school students who want to park in the SHS parking lot.

Spend a few minutes watching the video above, and you’ll see the entire discussion about ways to close the budget gap. For your convenience, here are a few particular segments that may interest you:

8 min: Discussion about how eliminating staff affects curriculum and proposed future STEM initiatives.

15 min: The committee discusses addressing the Board of Selectmen to allocate funds to close the gap, so parents will not have to be assessed fees.

28 min: Encouragement for parents to contact members of the Finance Committee and Board of Selectmen. Also, a reminder that the school budget is not final until it is approved at Town Meeting on May 7.

33 min: Pros and cons of depending on future school choice funds.

40 min: Final discussion on options.

Based on what I’ve heard about this week’s  Finance Committee meeting, it appears that using a portion of future school choice funds is a valid option. A move like that would decrease the budget gap to about $144,000.

So, how would you like to see that remaining gap closed? If you’re a parent of student in Grade 7-12, how do you feel about paying a transportation fee? Are there other ways to resolve the $144,000 difference in the budgets?

16 Responses so far.

  1. SadinSandwich says:

    This is so silly for our School committee to waste time with. Why do something about the things that matter. Study why the family’s are not sending their children to the high school.
    No More Cupcakes In Sandwich Classrooms
    http://www.capenews.net/communities/sandwich/news/1943

  2. [...] addition, the three School Committee candidates, who are running unopposed, have been offered time to address the audience. These three [...]

  3. AlsoConcerned says:

    Watched the FinCom meeting tonight. Upper Cape request sails through, 3.2% overall increase to their budget and 6.71% increase to Sandwich assessment. Their presentation was very general and the presenter either didn’t have information with him or couldn’t recall some information in trying to answer some questions. He dodged questions about 25k increase in Supt. account. It was too cozy and friendly for me. (no athletic fees either)
    Dr. Canfield’s presentations have been far more comprehensive and thorough and 1.37% is it for an increase? I applaud the 3 fincom members who voted to recommend 140k in additional funds which would offset the need for bus/parking fees.

    Why are our town leaders not taking care of our own families and kids, it’s embarrassing.

  4. Linell Grundman says:

    This is an excellent thread. I do need to remind you that any decisions made about school operations comes from the administration and the School Committee. As a selectman who tried to get more in the school budget I take my share of responsibility for what happened at the Selectman table, but I think we all need to be clear about who makes any operational decisions about the schools. Do I see a connection between placing a burden on parents, backdoor overrides, and decreased support in the parent community for municipal projects? You bet. I have always wished as a town we could think more strategically in a united sense about the needs of our town. We in government need to make decisions that build trust not erode it.

    I encourage parents to attend the Finance Committee meeting tonight. The school budget will be discussed. I also encourage parents to remember fully that it is the school administration and the School Committee who make all decisions about school operations,

    That said, at Town Meeting anyone can speak to the budget and move to change it on the floor of town meeting. Some of us have been there when this has happened and it has benefited the schools. That usually is a result of people not being happy with the budget process and the budget reasoning. It is not an easy thing to do. Unfortunately the time has passed for a citizen petition asking for more money. Parents deserve to be heard. Parents need to come to Town Meeting. You are a community of advocates for all the kids in Sandwich.

  5. AlsoConcerned says:

    Some good points have been raised here. A 1.37% increase for the schools is not enough when you now have to charge parents for bus fees. If the Selectmen cannot support the schools so there is no bus fee I will find it hard to support $ for a new safety complex. Also found it interesting that Upper Cape, which we fund for our kids, has no bus fee.

    • Ellen S. says:

      AlsoConcerned,

      I agree with you. The Upper Cape also does not have athletic fees and may not have any fees at all. Their budget increase is much higher than the 1.6% increase for Sandwich schools. (I think part of that 1.6% increase is from estimated school choice receiving tuition.). I don’t understand why the town boards are okay with larger increases for Upper Cape, while they squeeze the Sandwich schools. The March 15th version of the budget shows that we are putting $175,000 into the stabilization (rainy day) fund this year. In addition, the budget currently shows a surplus of over $60,000. While I understand the need to save money and maintain a reasonable balance in our stabilization fund, I’m not sure it can be justified if we are going to cover part of the school budget deficit by levying additional fees on parents. This is not the time to increase fees or cut programs in our schools. Aren’t we trying to keep more students in the district?

    • K. Siranosian says:

      Okay, so both of you are suggesting a fourth option to the three the School Committee discussed at their meeting last week? To close the budget gap, the School Committee considered: 1) cutting programs, 2) using a portion of next year’s school choice funds, 3) transportation fees. It sounds to me that you would like the School Committee to consider one more alternative: ask the Town to help bridge the remaining gap. At some point during the 45 minute video, I recall there is mention of some $180,000 that the school district “returned” to the Town last year. Does anyone have more information on that?

  6. proudDad says:

    Last time they tried to do bus fees it did not work out very well. It is like everything else. When you raise fees or taxes the revenue always goes down. People will find another way around the fees like I did. Walking is great for children. The town needs to look long and hard about where the money goes. I know we need a new fire and police stations but who has the money. Not most of the people I speak with on a daily. My family’s in town have a parent or two out of work. Jobs are very hard to find and keep now. Speaking of this are the teachers still getting paid?? I see them every morning protesting?? Why?? When you stop getting paid start protesting. How many of the parents in town have a guaranteed contracted job?? They are setting a poor example. Be leaders Please.

    • K. Siranosian says:

      Seeing teachers “protesting” makes me uncomfortable, too . . . but, then, I think that’s the point. My understanding is that they are trying to convey frustration with contract negotiations that have dragged on far too long. (And does anyone even know why there has been such a delay?) I have talked to a few teachers (not many, mind you, but a few), and my impression is that they want the contract settled as badly as many parents do. My question: Where is Scott Boras when you need him? LOL

      • Ellen S. says:

        I agree that the contract negotiations have dragged on too long. However, I am frustrated by the request that parents contact the school committee to support the teachers when we are not being told what is preventing agreement. I don’t think it is reasonable to expect blind support.

        • proudDad says:

          Ellen great point. What is the problem. Who is asking for what?? How many full weeks of school did the children get this year. Between late starts 1/2 days and vacations. How many full weeks did our children have their teacher in front of them?? Health care cost have gone up. Ask anyone their premiums have gone higher. Gas has gone up also. Parents are struggling out here.

  7. Concerned Mom says:

    Thank you for your information regarding transportation/parking fees. As a parent of several children in the district I will have a hard time coming up with the required money. My husband and I would have to think long and hard about our options.
    If this is supposed to be a “level service” budget why do we have to pay next year for services we are not paying for this year?

    • K. Siranosian says:

      I hear you, Concerned Mom. Over the weekend, I took a moment to add up what fees my family could potentially be paying next year. We have two children at SHS, and both are athletes. I figure we will easily meet the $500 family cap on sports fees. Then, there’s 2 x $80 for activities fees. Plus, we will need one parking sticker ($100) and one bus fee ($100). That’s $500 + $160 + $200 = $860 !!

      • proudDad says:

        you will be paying more as they are raising the activities fee to $100.

        • K. Siranosian says:

          Thanks for the heads-up. That means our family total for fees next year could be a whopping $900.

          • Ellen S. says:

            Yes and that doesn’t even begin to cover the contributions that families make. How about all of the time they spend volunteering and all of the fundraising they do?


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