Dear Parents and Staff:
You may have read in the news about the budget deficit facing the Middletown Public Schools. I want to take this opportunity to provide some additional detail to help families and staff understand our financial challenges, as well as the broader context of the district’s fiscal situation.
· For the current school year, we are projecting a budget deficit of approximately $1.2 million. That means that based on current estimates, by the end of this school year, our expenditures will likely exceed the amount of financial support we receive from the Town and the State.
· There are several factors that contribute to this gap:
o State Aid to the Middletown School Department has decreased over the past several years based on the funding formula.
o The Town appropriations to support operation of the Middletown Public Schools have remained relatively flat.
o Costs to operate the district continue to escalate sharply year after year.
o Our students require more special services than in the past. The extent of this need is surprisingly great, and we are challenged to find the additional funds to meet those needs.
· We have bridged the funding gap in the past through a variety of strategies, including reduction of staff in schools and in central office. We have reduced and/or eliminated programs.
· We have also applied surpluses (fund balance) saved from prior years and military Impact Aid dollars to recurring expenses. As of last year, we have all but exhausted those surplus accounts. Each year, when the budget is presented, the School Department makes this fact known and requests additional funding to support our recurring expenses.
The School Department has made strategic changes in the Business Office, including the hiring of Dina Dutremble, Interim Business Manager. Mrs. Dutremble is reviewing all of our financials to ensure accuracy of every line item, encumbrances, and purchase orders. Earlier this year we hired an Accounting Technician and a Benefits Clerk. We have also budgeted for an Accounts Payable Clerk position. These key changes will strengthen the functioning of the business office.
While these factors help explain the budget deficit for the current school year, the school district’s long-term financial viability is deeply compromised by a more significant revenue challenge. The School Department has sounded the alarm about this structural problem every budget season for the past seven years. Despite advocacy from the School Committee and others, the School Department did not receive the additional resources that our schools need.
It is critical that the Town and School Department work together to address this significant challenge. If this does not happen, we will continue to be forced to take stopgap measures every year that are not sustainable and ultimately will have a negative impact on teaching and learning.
Be assured that we will continue to advocate forcefully for adequate funding for our students as we move forward. We are also committed to working cooperatively with our Town Council on a performance audit of our expenses and programs. This is essential to gain trust and confidence in our operations.
Rosemarie K. Kraeger