Everyone in Watertown wants strong schools.
But the notion that the schools have not been well funded by the Town Manager and Town Council is not true.
The basic premise put forward to substantiate that notion is that Watertown spends a lesser percent of its total budget on schools. That idea only masquerades the real reason. We spend less because we have far fewer students to educate.
The age old formula for school spending is per pupil expenditure.
The Mass. Dept. of Elementary and Secondary School is the issuing authority on school spending and Data for all schools in the Commonwealth and the most credible source. They are the equalizer in varying opinions on school data. They tell an entirely different story than the schools.
I would urge all interested parties especially town councilors and parents to visit The Mass Elementary and Secondary state wide reports, click on school district profiles and draw their own conclusions.
This is how Watertown stands up to surrounding towns in the school population, per pupil expenditures and teacher pupil ratios.
Watertown has 2,745 students
Belmont has 4,088 students
Newton has 12,476 students
Arlington has 4,907 students
That is why we spend a smaller percentage of the total budget on the schools.
In per pupil spending
Watertown spends $16,493 per student
Newton spends $16,400 per student
Belmont spends $12,259 per student
Arlington spends $12,603 per student
Teacher to pupil ratios
Watertown has one teacher for every 12 students
Newton has one teacher for every 12 students
Belmont has one teacher for every 16 students
Arlington has one teacher for every 15 students
Watertown looks better in every category. Not exactly what we have been hearing.
Watertown schools are not that unique and complex. We have one High School, one Middle School and 3 Elementary schools in 4 square miles and far less students.
Many of the other things mentioned as complexities are common to cities and towns throughout the Commonwealth.
The increase the schools have received in the Manager’s proposed budget is unprecedented:
$2,267,000 Education Appropriation (6.18 percent increase)
$750,000 proposed FY 15 one time curriculum initiatives
$210,000 proposed FY 14 one time curriculum initiatives
The above represents an increase of 8.80 percent within the limits of Proposition 2 1/2 without a tax override.
In addition the manager has proposed $790,000 for a proposed Special Education Stabilization Fund.
For comparison with other Town Department’s increases, please see the following: Police 3.43 percent, Fire 4.59 percent, Public Works 2.69 percent, General Government (Town Hall) 1.37 percent.
Whatever the school appropriation is, it needs to be sustainable without touching cash reserves.
What the school proposed ($6.5 million – 17.80 percent) is not sustainable, what the Manager proposes is sustainable.
The town should never agree to create 32 new positions in the school department in one fiscal year at an approximate cost of $2.8 million annually forever.
The Town Manager has put forth a budget which is a record increase for the schools and addresses potential special education shortfalls during the school year with the proposed establishment of a Special Education Stabilization Fund.
He has given a reasonable response to an unreasonable request.
So voices have been heard!
All reasonable people should declare success in their effort and move on.
I would urge the Town Councilors to vote the manager’s recommendation for the schools, the real facts are on your side.
John S. Airasian