To the editor:
I am writing to respond to an editorial written in your paper on May 14 titled “Essex Tech budget troubles a worry.” The editorial referenced my efforts to spearhead an amendment that was accepted in this year’s House budget to add $704,000 to the state “pothole account.”
This appropriation was added to the Essex Tech budget to address a shortfall in their Chapter 70 funding due to an under-assessment in the number of students the Department of Secondary and Elementary Education reported to the Legislature based on enrollment numbers the state received in their October estimates. At the local level, only two communities were properly assessed the number of students that would be attending the new school in September, while 14 communities were under-assessed a total of 217 students. As towns were in their final few weeks of preparation for their annual town meetings and cities were finalizing their budgets, to ask them at such a late hour to contribute tens of thousands of dollars and in a few cases over $100,000 would be extremely unfair and disruptive to their budget deliberations. For examples, the city of Salem was under-assessed 45 students, while the figures indicated that 24 fewer students would be attending from the town of Danvers.
Complicating the equation further was the situation with the city of Peabody. They were the only community overassessed, and not by just a few students, but by an overwhelming number, 52. In plain language, the city was faced with the potential of having to provide an education for these 52 students while their education assistance dollars were being improperly diverted to the new school.
Merging schools and school districts in Massachusetts is obviously a rarity, and there is no statute or funding mechanism to address such a development. Usually, local communities or the district absorb the loss, and their budgets are adjusted in future years.