School Committee Urges Voters to Approve Town Meeting Articles

The school district budget includes a 4.47% increase in the Acton assessment, "due to the fact that the ratio of Acton students to Boxborough students is increasing year to year."

Acton-Boxborough Regional High School. File photo.
Acton-Boxborough Regional High School. File photo.

The following is from the Acton Boxborough Regional and Transitional School Committees:

It is with great urgency that we ask you to come to Acton Town Meeting on April 7th continuing on April 8th and 9th as needed, to support the Acton Boxborough Regional School District (ABRSD) Assessment, Warrant Article 21, and three school-related Warrant Articles numbered 22-24, which serve to implement the transfer of the school buildings and other assets from the town to the District as planned for by the new Regional Agreement.

Of note, this is not a typical year. It is the first time our town is voting on just one school district assessment, and one that covers educational services from Pre-K through Grade 12. It is the result of the first budget for our newly expanded region, effective July 1, 2014. We have put forth a budget that addresses the District’s top priorities yet compromises between what our students need and what we believe our two towns are able and willing to pay. The ABRSD budget, approved by the School Committee on March 20th results in a 4.47% increase in the Acton assessment, largely due to the fact that the ratio of Acton students to Boxborough students is increasing year to year, as has been the case for several years.

This budget was developed in accordance with the Acton Finance Committee’s “Point of View” document, and contains significant required increases in SPED costs, OPEB contributions, and health insurance costs. Sustainability has been and will continue to be a key consideration throughout our budget planning process. In fact, while we anticipate that the major budget drivers of this year’s budget will not increase at the same rate moving forward, we have also decreased personnel, district-wide, by eight full-time positions.

Developing a budget for three previously separate school districts proved to be challenging, and the resulting timeframe to vet the budget across the town’s various boards and committees was compressed. We have since vowed to improve these budget communications across town next year. Acton has a long history of supporting our schools, and your support at Town Meeting will help to ensure the continued tradition of excellence that we enjoy.
Allen Nitschelm April 03, 2014 at 07:58 AM
Voters should come to Town Meeting to discuss school spending. But a vote in favor of the school assessment this year is not warranted. The School Committee (SC) should first get its facts straight. Our assessment is going up 2% higher than the budget is increasing because of the shift in student enrollment, but that shift was supposed to be "balanced out" this year because Acton taxpayers were promised a $1 million payment to ameliorate this shift (at least that's what was supposed to happen.) Instead, we are paying about $1 million more than we should be had the formula's effects been neutralized. This was not disclosed at last June's Town Meeting and was a material fact. In fact, voters last year were led to believe the opposite, that Acton could actually save money over the next five years (perhaps to reduce its tax rate, it was suggested.) In short, someone goofed. Should taxpayers have to pay millions more over the coming years because of this error? Or should we try to correct it before it is too late? We at Acton Forum (www.ActonForum.com) believe that the enrollment formula which is skewed towards Boxborough needs to be fixed before we approve increases in school spending. To claim that the formula has always been skewed is disingenuous, when we just revised the formula to try to fix it. I'm sure many of the new school spending proposals are justified. That doesn't mean that cuts shoudn't be made elsewhere in the budget to pay for them. The only reason we can afford all these additions is because of the savings due to regionalization. Voters would probably never approve (and the SC would probably never advance) these increases in service without the regionalization savings. There is also Warrant Article 22, which proposes selling all of the Acton school buildings to the region at $1 each. We should be given an accounting of the value of these assets and the equity of the Boxborough donation of its school building. There is no reason that prior tax payments and future debt payments to purchase, build, and upkeep the elementary schools should not be factored in to the donation equation to make sure both towns are being treated relatively equally. Without such a list of assets, we urge you to vote against Warrant Article 22 as well.
Charlie Kadlec April 03, 2014 at 08:18 AM
This year, for the first time in Acton, the Board of Selectmen has voted not to recommend the proposed school assessment. There are several very good reasons why the voters should follow the Selectmen's recommendation and vote NO on the school articles. First, the real increase in the school budget is much higher than the 4.7% cited by the school committee. For example, the 4.7% does not include $500,000 for retirement costs that was left out of the school budget and will have to be paid by the municipal side and does not include the true costs of additional personnel which, for the next fiscal year, the school administration is funding from "off budget" accounts such as Community Education to make the budget increase appear to be lower. Second, the formula in the new Regional Agreement which determines how the costs are allocated to Acton and Boxborough continues the flawed practice of using only enrollment, aggravated by the relatively higher Acton enrollment in the K-6 grades now added to the District and not corrected by the temporary "fix" which was added to the Agreement at the last minute. The formula results in Acton subsidizing Boxborough not just for the next fiscal year but every year -- the Agreement does not have an expiration date. Third, the proposed new positions are not classroom teachers but mostly administrators supposedly needed to implement another unfunded mandate from the state. There is much more to this, visit the ActonForum for more information. The vote on the school articles at this Town Meeting will have a very significant impact on the future of Acton, on our ability to provide adequate services to all residents. Please attend Town Meeting -- which starts Monday -- and vote NO on the school assessment Article 21 as well as Article 22. Charlie Kadlec Acton
Poppaone April 03, 2014 at 09:31 AM
AAs an Acton taxpayer, I feel that it is inappropriate for the Acton Patch to publish biased press releases from the School Committee without giving equal time to the other side of this issue. Obviously the School Assessment issue is controversial as the Board of Selectmen negative vote demonstrated. Support for this assessment is not in the best interest of the Acton taxpayer and, hopefully, the smart and informed voters of Acton will reject this article at Town Meeting. I recommend that the School Committee deliver to Acton what they promised at the last town meeting – or do the right thing and resign.
Scott Smyers April 04, 2014 at 02:17 PM
Not so fast. The School Committee is well aware of the unnecessary expenses due to implementing PARCC/Common Core, but they are careful not to discuss this publicly. The voters of Acton have been educating themselves on these issues and some of us will be ready to question these issues at Town meeting. You need to know that the costs are going up to implement State and Federal requirement we do NOT NEED (substandard tests and curriculum), CANNOT afford (extra Vice Principals just to do paperwork required by the Common Core), and will not result in a better education (see NY state's fight against PARCC and Common Core). And that is just the beginning.


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