At the budget hearing on Tuesday evening, April 17th, Superintendent Frederick F. Foresteire demonstrated that with the present school budget for fiscal year 2013, Everett schools will have little impact on the tax rate in Everett.
“Everett’s funding of the school budget has been kept at the minimum the law allows the city to pay for the last five years,” Mr. Foresteire said. “That works out to be 34% in fiscal year 2013.”
In actual money, Everett’s funding of our school budget increased by $251,703 in fiscal year 2013,” Mr. Foresteire said.
“At that level of funding, no one with any degree of honesty can say that the Everett Public Schools will have much of an impact on the city’s tax rate,” Mr. Foresteire said.
In fact, Everett’s per pupil expenditure, of just over $12,040 per student in FY 2011, remains $1,007/pupil below the state average. When compared to surrounding communities such as Cambridge ($26,305/pupil), Somerville ($16,108/pupil), Chelsea (13,708/pupil), Revere ($13,347/pupil) or Malden ($12,368/pupil), Everett still remains at the bottom in per pupil expenditure at $12,040/pupil.
Reductions at the state level have been harsh on municipalities, and the Patrick administration again has warned that further budget cuts are unavoidable. As municipalities like Everett struggle to balance their own budgets while maintaining their city services to the voting public, schools and quality of education they have provided become an unfortunate bargaining chip in the process.
“In fiscal year 2013 we will receive more than half of our school budget, or 66% from the state’s Chapter 70 funds to spend on our children’s education, and that amount is almost double what the city provides” said Mr. Foresteire.
“But I want to remind the taxpayers of Everett that this 66%, or $49,289,407 in Chapter 70 aid does NOT come from this city’s taxes. This aid comes from the state of Massachusetts and is mandated by law,” Superintendent Foresteire said.
“The money that Everett gets from the state’s Chapter 70 aid is set according to a special formula designed to give inner-city taxpayers like us a break” Superintendent Foresteire explained. “It was set up so that inner city school districts in Massachusetts would be able to provide an education for their students closer to the education level that the more wealthy suburbs were offering their students.”
“Furthermore, as we have demonstrated, the net increase in Chapter 70 funding, or the money we actually wind up with to run our schools, isn’t anywhere near $6.3 million.” Mr. Foresteire said.
“By the time the loss of grant payments; the loss of federal Medicaid money due to cutbacks in Washington D.C.; what we have to give back to City Hall, which has increased to almost $17 million; and some of the increased fixed costs are all factored in the net increase in Chapter 70 aid for Everett Public Schools comes to just $350,000.
“That’s it….$350,000 is all we will have to work with out of that $6.3 million increase in state aid for fiscal year 2013.” Mr Foresteire said.
“Unfortunately this hit comes at a time when we are expecting another record-breaking student enrollment” Mr. Foresteire pointed out.
The law requires that any school-age child with a legal Everett address cannot be turned away from any public school in Everett. That means that just this year alone, Everett is obligated to provide a record-breaking number of 6,600 students with an education, and must continue to do so until those students graduate or move to another school district.
“The law says that we will have to continue to provide education for a portion of these students every year for up to as much as 12 more years, if they meet the qualifications to stay in our public schools” Mr. Foresteire said. “But because our student enrollment increases every year, that portion of students we have to educate until they graduate also increases and that increases our costs of operation.”
At present, the school administration directs 71% of all general school expenditures to the students. More than half of that, or 57%, falls in the category of Special Education. Athletics accounts for only 3%, according to Superintendent Foresteire’s presentation, and central administration for only 4%.
“There simply isn’t any ‘wiggle room’ left” Mr. Foresteire said. “Everett is not legally allowed to drop any further in the amount the city funds our schools. Federal grants have all but disappeared, and not much is left at the state level that my administration hasn’t already tapped.”
“With severe losses at the federal and state levels in fiscal year 2013 and with little help from the city in the fiscal year 2013 budget, its anyone’s guess how much longer we can keep saying that “Everett Schools are Everett’s Pride” Mr. Foresteire said. “But we will do the job tot he best of our ability and we will do it with a balanced school budget.”