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Quabbin district school budget brings questions; Selectman: `You're spending more than we can afford'.

Byline: Craig S. Semon

BARRE - Although the Quabbin Regional School District School Committee trimmed $100,000 from its originally proposed fiscal 2010 budget, a local selectman is accusing the committee of "misinformation" and bleeding district towns dry.

New Braintree selectman Martin P. Goulet blasted the District School Committee's budget subcommittee Thursday night. "We don't have a budget crisis. We have a spending crisis," he said. "You're spending more than we can afford."

Using data from the state Department of Education & Secondary Education Web site, Mr. Goulet said the Quabbin Regional School District spent $3.8 million more than Net School Spending required in fiscal '09 and $1.5 million more than NSS required in FY 99.

Mr. Goulet said relationships between the Quabbin towns and the school committee hit a "new low" Thursday night when the budget subcommittee refused to let the town representatives ask questions about the school budget.

He also argued the regional school district agreement states School Choice revenue would be used to reduce assessment, not to purchase more services, which he said the school committee is doing.

"Excuse me Marty, it doesn't say that," Mark Brophy countered. "If you want to talk about this another time, you may. I gave you time to talk. We're moving forward."

Mr. Brophy, a school committee member and budget subcommittee chairman, moved the question while Mr. Goulet was still trying to make his point and asking questions on the line-item budget.

After asking for months, Mr. Goulet said, the Quabbin towns finally received a copy of the line-item school budget last week, and he objected to being cut off.

"We all spent a long time reviewing the budget, had questions, and to think that we wouldn't be able to ask the questions is just ludicrous," Mr. Goulet said afterward.

Mr. Goulet confronted Mr. Brophy after the conclusion of the budget subcommittee meeting and then stormed out.

During the regular committee meeting, which immediately followed the budget subcommittee meeting, Cheryl A. Duval, the acting superintendent and director of administrative services, addressed Mr. Goulet's accusations of spending more than NSS required.

In fact, she indirectly agreed with Mr. Goulet's assessment, explaining that NSS uses an outdated formula that has not increased with the level of decreases and expenses of today.

"You have heard at several meetings that the formula is antiquated, the formula is not sufficient for education funding in today's financial climate," Ms. Duval insisted. "And, to say that we're that much above minimum Net School Spending, well, yes, because Net School Spending is based on an antiquated formula."

Ms. Duval said further

review of the same Web site shows that "very, very few" districts spend at the NSS required level.

School Committee Chairman Edward F. Leonard said the Quabbin Regional School District is in the bottom 15th percentile for school spending and they are only at that level because of School Choice. In addition, Mr. Leonard said, Quabbin is at the sixth percentile of regional school districts being supported by towns' tax dollars.

"Somehow we're overspending at a very modest level, because we're in the bottom 6 percent of what we ask them," Mr. Leonard said. "The amazing thing that is really going on in this district is that we're able to offer the quality educational experience that we do for the amount of money that we spend."

Barre and Hubbardston passed the originally proposed FY10 Quabbin School District budget of $32,980,807 while Hardwick, New Braintree and Oakham rejected it in favor of a reduced assessment.

Four of the five Quabbin towns must vote in favor of the school budget. The two towns that voted for a higher number don't have to reconvene in a special town meeting to vote on the lower number of $32,880,807. The $100,000 reduction will be met by eliminating a secretarial position, as well as various supplies, software and textbook materials.
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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Jul 26, 2009
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