Good Budget News From Governor Tempered by Surge in Belmont School Enrollment

Despite 10 percent increase in education local aid, amount will be used to lessen enrollment gains.

Finally, Belmont is getting its due from the corner office. 

While many communities in the surrounding area will see very little growth from the proposed fiscal year 2015 budget by Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, Belmont is the exception to that rule, according to analysis from State Sen. Will Brownsberger. 

While Patrick's proposed budget, released on Jan. 22, invests only lightly in new local aid – unrestricted general government aid is level funded and Chapter 70 school aid increases only 2.3 percent – Belmont will see school aid increase by approximately 10 percent with total Cherry Sheet local aid (school aid and general government) moving up by 7 percent.  

In real money, Belmont's schools would receive $6.4 million in the governor's fiscal '15 budget compared to $5.8 million the town collected from the legislature's fiscal '14 final budget, a $555,196 increase. 

Last year, the town's Chapter 70 increase was $140,665 from the fiscal '13 final budget. 

The surprising increase in education local aid is due in large part to Patrick's effort to address city's and towns that have not received their fair share under the state's complex education aid formula, according to Brownsberger. 
And Belmont's local aid amount could jump up another level when the legislature creates its budget.

"It is unlikely that the legislature will go below the Governor’s budget on the local aid amounts as the process moves forward given that these numbers are fairly low and the economy is fairly healthy, it is reasonable to treat them as a floor for local budget planning purposes," said Brownsberger on his legislative website.  

Brownsberger said that Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo assured municipal officials last week that the House local aid budget would be higher, "although it remains to be seen how the numbers will work for individual communities."

For Belmont officials who are leading the creation of the town's fiscal '15 budget, the news from Beacon Hill is "welcomed news," David Kale, Belmont's Town Administrator, told Belmont Patch this week.

Currently, Belmont's "initial" budget released late in December assumed that nearly all revenue coming into town coffers would be the same as the year before. At the time Kale said a more realistic budget for the next fiscal year will emerge when actual revenue amounts come from state and town offices. 

Kale said Patrick's local aid data "now allows us to factor this information into the development of town and school budgets."

But while the Belmont School District is "[c]ertainly we’re happy to see an increase" from Patrick, "Chapter 70 alone does not sustain the costs of growth" within the district, said Dr. Thomas Kingston, Belmont's school superintendent. 

"The increase in Chapter 70 funding for Belmont largely stems from last year’s increase in enrollment," said Kingston, referring to the sudden jump in the number of pupils in the town's six public schools.

In late fall, there were approximately 140 students more student as a total net gain through the 13 grades – kindergarten to 12th grade – as compared to the same time last year, with Belmont schools hosting more than 4,140 students.

One of the main concern expressed by parents and educators is overcrowding in several classes in the elementary and middle schools. Kingston has stated that these will need to be addressed in the coming budget. 

"We are building our budget proposal now, and the School Committee is working closely with Kale and the Board of Selectmen," said Kingston, noting that the school's initial proposed budget will be presented to the Warrant Committee on Feb. 12.
Waverly Watchdog February 01, 2014 at 08:45 AM
Finally... I've been waiting for someone to trot out this cannard. - - - The truth is that Belmont Schools are good, ONLY because they are perceived to be good. - - - Think about it: Some parents want their kids to excel in school, so are willing to do what's needed to help them succeed, like making sure homework gets done, limiting TV and games, and so on. Those parents are also likely to put their kids into schools they perceive to be 'good'. This process SELF-SELECTS for superior students. Hence the schools thus selected do better than average. It has all but nothing to do with the teachers and, more importantly, teacher salaries. - - - As to property values, ONLY 140 houses were sold last year. Yes, that Special Interest benefited, but the other roughly 10,860 properties in Town DID NOT. They were the SUCKERS that paid higher taxes to benefit the VERY few.
Charles P Connelly February 06, 2014 at 12:16 AM
Pretty much agree with you that this town is beholden to the teachers union, and that the high scores have a lot to do with the parents (many of which are Harvard and MIT faculty), and we do not have to overpay our teachers. But your initial point seemed to indicate that we should not make the town more attractive to new families, as this was somehow unsustainable, while at the same time you is indicate that the 10,860 properties are getting a raw deal from their unrealized property value drastically increasing due to said families overpaying to live here. The very fact that we do have that many properties that do not sell shows that our tax base is sustainable, I also imagine that many of the owners of these properties have either already sent their children to Belmont schools or chosen to live here long term with the understanding that the taxes they pay in this town subsidize the younger families with children who have moved here for the schools.
Waverly Watchdog February 06, 2014 at 11:34 AM
The point I made was that virtually every new family with children in Belmont Schools is a net LOSS to the Taxpayers. Only those properties assessed at over $1,750,000 PER CHILD pay their own way. This shortfall is paid for by the roughly 3/4 of Taxpayers that do not have kids in the schools. - - - I maintain that the 'quality school system' is not an important factor in high property values. The main reason for ALL Taxpayers is proximity to Boston and Cambridge, while preserving something of a small town atmosphere. Schools only matter to those families with kids... a distinct MINORITY. - - - Belmont should not be trying to attract property owners who are a net loss to the Town balance sheet. - - - Special Interest Projects like the Underwood Pool preferentially attract families with kids. This is counter-productive.
Charles P Connelly February 06, 2014 at 05:20 PM
Isn't that kind of the point of government? To centrally fund things that would otherwise be unaffordable at the individual level. Is Belmont's ratio some how out of alignment with neighboring communities, like Arlington?
Waverly Watchdog February 06, 2014 at 05:58 PM
If it isn't in the Constitution, it's NOT a legitimate function of government. Keeping up with the Jones's (in Arlington) is not a legitimate function of government either. - - - Just because Newton squandered hundreds of millions on a fancy school, is no reason Belmont should do the same. - - - Just because the Town is contemplating wasting roughly $7000 per Underwood Pool membership, is that a justification for squandering $7000 per head on every other Special Interest want? OF COURSE NOT.


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