Previous blogs have provided information to the public on Act 46 and it’s impact on the Colchester School District Budget process for 2016-17. Entering this budget cycle, the Colchester School District has had a reputation for low per pupil spending while having consistent high student results on state assessments. This has been recognized beyond the community as exemplified in the Picus Report as Colchester having a model school district on all measures. Even with its’ history of low spending while achieving high student achievement results, passing budgets has been challenging and has resulted in significant reductions over the years. Through the passage of Act 46, the school board was given both a percent (2.35%) and an average per pupil spending figure ($13,851) that they needed to stay under or match to avoid an additional tax penalty if they exceeded those parameters. At this moment in the process it looks clear the school district will not only stay within those limits but will show a decrease in per pupil spending when compared to the 2015-16 school year.
The plan under consideration shows an increase in expenditures of 4.1%, but an increase in Net Equalized Pupils of 118 additional students that came primarily from the pre-kindergarten population due to Act 166. This will add significant revenue to the budget next year. On the expenditure side, the district needed to add an additional teacher at grade 3 to address increased enrollment, another IT position to address needs for increased support as technology expands, and added funds to support needed professional development and athletic programs. The increase also reflects added costs for fixed expenditures like salary, benefits, and operations. When all put together there was a decrease of 1.8% in the current per pupil spending compared to the 2.35% figure of per pupil spending that was allowed. This will result in a tax decrease of 4 cents compared to the current year.
Under Act 46 the framing of the Article for the March ballot will also look different than the past. At this time if the current budget under consideration is passed by the Board it would read as follows:
“Shall the voters of the school district approve the school board to expend _$37,914,750_ which is the amount the school board has determined to be necessary for the ensuing fiscal year? It is estimated that the proposed budget, if approved, will result in education spending of _$13,297.47_ per equalized pupil. This projected spending per equalized pupil is _1.8%_ lower than spending for the current year.
It is expected on January 19th, the board will provide the final approval so the budget can be warned for voter consideration on March 1st. If any member of the public would like to share their perspective or have any questions on the proposed final budget, it is encouraged they attend and participate at the January 19th meeting.