The Town of Dover is one of 16 Minuteman Regional Technical High School District members that have been adversely affected by Minuteman budget process accounting anomalies.
The Minuteman administration has made too many operational financial mistakes that are now costing Minuteman member towns millions of dollars annually. The result of these calculated blunders is the erosion of public support for increased capital spending.
The Minuteman school committee positions member towns to subsidize more and more students from Boston, Medford, Watertown, Waltham and 30 other nonmember towns by allowing Minuteman member town assessments to increase by 5% annually even as member towns must contend with budgets restricted by Proposition 2 ½ and member student enrollment is flat. These budgets exceeding Proposition 2 1/2 are described to member towns as "Level Service" budgets when the only "level" cost centers are member student enrollments and teacher staffing (no increases in either for years) while administrative overhead has increased by $600,000 and out of district nonmember enrollment has ballooned by 44%.
Officials from the school’s administration and school committee continue to defend a theory that an unnecessarily large and underfunded out-of-district nonmember tuition student enrollment is somehow a financial advantage for all the taxpayers in the District’s 16 member towns. These officers are undeterred by financial realities and data to the contrary including their own estimate that the school loses $4,000 on each tuition student. When accurately including all expenditures spent transparently to benefit all students, the revenue loss exceeds $8,000 for each nonmember tuition student.
These officials persist in these claims knowing full well that member town enrollment alone generates and contributes over $13 million towards Minuteman’s $19.8 million annual operating budget. At the same time, tuition payments from nonmember cites and towns represent less than $6 million in payments towards reducing Minuteman’s operating expenditures while out-of-district nonmember tuition students number nearly half (47%) of Minuteman’s total student enrollment. Why should nonmember towns not provide the additional $3 million as a fair partner that appears to be treated better than our 16 member towns?
As we all know, the budget process is inexorably tied to assessments. If budgeted tuition revenue is underfunded, member town assessments must increase to make up the difference.
Taxpayers have been coaxed into subsidizing 34 nonmember towns through misleading and biased reports. After being given only a subset of all pertinent facts, member towns are now being asked to believe the school is on the cusp of a financial and educational break through if member towns would only to agree to increase their current annual $2.0 million operational subsidy of out-of-district nonmember cities and town by paying an additional $1.2 million in increased capital contributions to build a new school to benefit primarily nonmember students. Together these operational and capital subsidies total $3.2 million solely for the benefit of nonmember towns.
The new school is being designed for 800 students of which only 435 students will be from member towns like your town. The other half of the new school’s total capacity will be filled with 365 underfunded nonmember tuition students that will contribute less than 28% towards Minuteman’s total annual operating and capital costs while your town and 15 other member towns pay the remaining 72%.
It is imperative that voters ask during Dover’s Town Meeting that Minuteman’s administration representatives address and clarify these financial anomalies. Do not allow simplistic explanations of officers not being aware or the Minuteman finance committee doesn’t understand the numbers the finance committee approved.
Being fully informed, Dover voters can make an informed decision as to who will financially benefit from the building of a new school; why member towns must bear all capital construction costs while nonmember towns that include Boston, Medford, Watertown, and Waltham refuse to contribute to capital costs; and why nonmember towns should be allowed to continue to underfund Minuteman year after year to the detriment of our students.
Sudbury Appointee to the Minuteman school committee since 2008