Guest Contribution by Arthur Green
Arthur Green and Cathleen Gorman sent the following to the local papers:
Dr. Metzler, Superintendent of the Timberlane Regional School District, told the Plaistow Selectmen on Jan. 27 2014 (quoting minutes on the meeting):
“ .. the district is accustomed to an approximately $2 million surplus consistently every year. If we were to come here without the surplus the tax rate would be hit hard the following year.”
But on March 14 this year, days after the voters imposed a default budget, Dr. Metzler released a video on the Timberlane web site with the very alarming suggestion that the coming (2014/15 year) would not be passing on a “significant” surplus to the 2015/16 year. This message was reiterated during the July 16 School Board meeting.
If our accustomed $2 million surplus is spent, in Dr. Metzler’s own words the tax rate will be hit hard… and this for the third consecutive year.
The impact would be equivalent to a $2 million tax increase next year, simply as a result of the district spending its full voted budget.
Here’s a snapshot of what we are proposing:
$67,336,000 : current voted budget for 2014/15
$65,336,000: spending cap with set-aside of $2 million for surplus
this is $1 million more than was spent in 2013/14
to educate 160 fewer students (4%) than 2013/14
enrollment has decreased by 300 students since the 2012/13 school year
In the 2013/14 year the just ended:
spending was up $3 million over previous year
enrollment was down 3.6% over previous year
The taxpayers need the district to limit its spending to preserve our accustomed $2 million surplus and prevent a third year of big tax increases in Sandown and Danville. Such a spending cap would be in keeping with voter expectations when the budget was deliberated last winter and approved in March.
When Timberlane School Board next meets on August 28, there will be a move to direct our administration to cap spending at $65,336,000 unless in case of unforeseen, non-discretionary emergency needs.
Timberlane taxpayers, call your school board representatives to make sure they understand how important you think this is to preserve affordable education in our district.
More details on this issue are available at timberlaneandsandown.wordpress.com.
The undersigned are not writing on behalf of the Timberlane Budget Committee.
Arthur Green and Cathleen Gorman
Sandown Representatives on the Timberlane Budget Committee
For the last six consecutive years, Timberlane has run on average a budget surplus of approximately $2 million dollars, mostly by underspending the approved budget.
At the end of each year, the unspent balance is passed forward to the next year as revenue, and offsets an equal amount of taxes in that year.
If the $2 million surplus is consumed in 2014/15, then the budget for 2015/16 will lack that $2 million offset. This money will need to be raised by an increase in property taxes. For context, $2 million was added to the tax bill in the current 2014/15 year and school taxes are estimated to go up about 8.2% in Sandown, and 9.1% in Danville. We’ll know for sure when the tax bills come out in late November. Spending the surplus built into this year’s budget would result in 3 consecutive years of large tax increases for Sandown and Danville.
A spending cap would still provide ample resources for the district to provide a quality education, keeping in mind the ongoing rapid drop in enrollment. Since 2008, enrollment is down 19%, and the budget is up 17%.
The Budget Committee has been repeatedly reminded when scrutinizing underspent lines that preserving the surplus is a necessary buffer against unexpected contingencies. The budget committee has respected that and recommended budgets with margin for the unexpected. It now turns out that the unexpected contingency is an administration prepared to fully expend the voted budget.
Taxpayers voted a default budget. They expect it to be respected, and not turned into a punishment.
Timberlane School Board meets Aug. 28. Call or email your School Board representative to urge them to support a spending cap. Once spending plans are committed, the impact on next year’s tax bills will also be committed.