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Margaret Raymond Driscoll is a nine-year Melrose School Committee member who is passionate about excellent teaching and learning for all public school students, and considers it a privilege to collaborate with others who share that passion. You can also follow her on Twitter at @MargaretDrisc. Just to be clear - opinions expressed here do not represent those of the Melrose Public Schools, the Melrose School Committee, or the Massachusetts Association of School Business Officials - they are hers alone.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Mayor Dolan Presents FY16 Budget and Override Proposals: May 11th

At last night’s mandatory annual joint meeting of the Melrose Board of Aldermen and School Committee, Mayor Dolan formally presented his FY16 budget for consideration by the Board. Funding highlights in the area of education are as follows:

-       Continuing renovation of MHS, including renovation of the Resource Center into a “21st century Learning Commons that will benefit our students and the entire community.”
-       Implementing a comprehensive plan to address technology challenges across the district and across the city.
-       Replacing the Hoover School windows and renovating its entryway; and reconfiguring areas of the Winthrop School to move the principal’s office and add a classroom.
-       Partnering with ECC families to renovate the playground.
-       Rebuilding the Lyons tennis courts. (Note: it’s the traditional home of the MHS Girls’ Tennis Team.)
-       Undertaking a demographic study to explore trends in increasing school enrollments.
-       Adding two Kindergarten teachers and two elementary teachers (Note: A full-time Academic Facilitator is also added.)

Mayor Dolan also recommended that the Board approve placing a question on the November ballot asking citizens whether they support a tax override in the amount of $240/year ($20/month). According to the Mayor, “It will fund much-needed educator positions at all levels: 5.5 elementary teachers, 6 secondary teachers, and one district-wide educator for technology integration.  In addition, this investment in our community will eliminate the structural deficit in our public schools, increase vital line items for professional development and materials, and allow us to hire two additional police officers, which we absolutely need to enhance our public safety and reduce overtime costs.” He added: “I propose [the override] measure in order to advance public education, to advance public safety, as well as to sustain the successful financial foundation we have built over the last decade, even during the hardest economy since the Great Depression, for our time now and for decades to come. This is not an easy thing to propose, but in my opinion it is necessary.”  The Mayor shared that this override proposal is different from others he has witnessed in Melrose in that the city is currently financially stable and strong, but our ability to raise new money is capped. State and federal funding is decreasing and 94% of our community is residential so we have very limited commercial tax revenue. Our tax base is lower than a significant number of local and similar communities but our housing market is seeing substantial demand resulting in a large influx of students to our schools.

The Mayor believes that a different avenue for investing in our community is needed and that the time is now. He noted: “We are a stable and well managed community, but we are not able to devote one more dollar to operate our public schools in future years. In fact, we needed a supplemental budget of over $700,000 to balance the current school budget, and we will need to do so again next year. There is little or nothing left for other city departments and no flexibility to deal with unexpected situations. Being such a desirable community in which to live brings additional costs as the population changes. We can no longer count on Washington or Boston or hope or short-term fixes to get us through the next decade. This is a structural problem that is not going away…” He added: “Every citizen is going to have to make up their own mind [about the override]. I am simply offering a proposal that I believe is necessary. That is my job. It is your job to make the decision.”

To watch Mayor Dolan deliver his remarks, click here: http://www.mmtv3.org/index.php?categoryid=28. His remarks span from 3:30 minutes-26:00 minutes.