NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

January 2, 2013

Proposed Pentucket budget up 3.5 percent to $35.9M

Superintendent aims to make district among the best

(Continued)

Pentucket spends $2,173 less per pupil — or $6.8 million less overall — than the state average. Since 2000, student enrollment has declined by 5.7 percent, but in the past five years Pentucket has cut its staff by 14 percent.

Revenues in the proposed budget are based on level-funded state aid and a 2.5 percent increase in operational assessments and capital expenses from the towns. With the state facing stagnant revenue streams and Gov. Deval Patrick proposing $17.5 million in spending cuts that will directly impact Pentucket, Bergeron is counting on no increase in state aid next year.

Since 2009, Pentucket’s state aid receipts have dropped by $964,250, a fact that is “pushing the burden of funding an appropriate and free education for all students onto the local taxpayer,” the administration acknowledged.

To compensate, the district has historically offered more school choice slots for additional funds. But relying on school choice as a major part of the district’s revenue stream is “both risky and unsustainable,” Mulqueen’s budget document states. This year the operating budget will assume over $200,000 in expenses due to a lack of revenue generated in the school choice account.

Despite these challenges, however, the administration is not looking for a tax override to make up the shortfall.

“To begin the process of creating a sustainable budget, the district cannot count on operational overrides, and must work within the revenue available,” the budget document states.

Mulqueen proposes repurposing existing resources and consolidating several administrative positions to both help address the financial gap while supporting his vision for a world-class education.

A savings of $350,000 is realized through restructuring that eliminates positions for the current assistant superintendent, principal at Sweetsir Elementary School in Merrimac and the out-of-district special education coordinator; reduces a secretarial position by .5 in the Central Office; reorganizes the district’s special education and the high school guidance departments and slashes Pentucket’s legal costs by 40 percent.

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