SB Myths: compared to all other towns, we spend too much

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SB Myths: compared to all other towns, we spend too much

Postby GregRS » Thu Apr 05, 2007 8:10 pm

The state average cost per pupil in total expenditures is $11,237.63.

Amherst spends $10,284.82
Londonderry spends $8,820.00
Hollis spends $9,491.78

Merrimack spends $9,451.21 and falls right in the middle of our area schools.

Source: NH Department of Education

Myth: Busted
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Postby JMac1000 » Thu Apr 05, 2007 9:38 pm

Hi Greg,

From what I can see Merrimack's School Budget is on the high side. Candidly, I see no evidence of waste, and I am at a loss to understand why our budget is high in comparison with similar districts, and larger districts. - The largest increases in cost over recent years, Special Ed, and Medical benefits are impacting many other school districts, and this problem is not unique to Merrimack. If there were any significant, obvious waste, I would have expected this to be brought to the surface by now, as this budget is throroughly examined by the Budget Committee, School Board, and the School district itself. I believe the school board, and School leadership has done good work this budget season, and they should be applauded for the careful, well thought out budget cuts, that I believe were fair and balanced. Most importantly it did not compromise the quality of education. The DS seemed to erase the good work done. However, based on what I see below, there is more work to be done.

There has to be a reason why the following suburbs in the region educate more students at a lower cost.

Both Concord NH, and Londonderry have school districts that are 700 to 800 more students than Merrimack, and their budgets are right in line with Merrimack, a smaller district, 59 - 60 million.

Billerica Mass educates 6600 students, or nearly 2000 more kids at a cost of 49 million, 10 million less than Merrimack. I will note they they are also District in Need of improvement.

Hudson's budget is 39million or 33% less than Merrimack, and they educate, I believe 700 fewer students, or about 20% fewer students.

Believe me, the list could go on.........

Can you provide some insight on this? What am I missing? Pls enlighten me!
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Re: SB Myths: compared to all other towns, we spend too much

Postby RBarnes » Fri Apr 06, 2007 6:29 am

GregRS wrote:The state average cost per pupil in total expenditures is $11,237.63.

Amherst spends $10,284.82
Londonderry spends $8,820.00
Hollis spends $9,491.78

Merrimack spends $9,451.21 and falls right in the middle of our area schools.

Source: NH Department of Education

Myth: Busted


Greg you aren't posting correct data here.

ALL costs factored in together average out at $11,237.63. That would be equal to our entire budget divided by how many kids we have. I don't have the numbers handy but I think we come out at sround $15,000 per kid when looking at ALL expenses.

The per child cost you list out excludes several costs. And when looking at the state average in that case it comes out at $9,098.56 so Merrimack IS higher then average. So sorry Greg, this myth is not only NOT busted but it is TRUE.

Here's a link to the actual data:

http://www.ed.state.nh.us/Education/dat ... ameset.htm
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Postby Ken Coleman » Fri Apr 06, 2007 6:45 am

Jamie Posted,

Both Concord NH, and Londonderry have school districts that are 700 to 800 more students than Merrimack, and their budgets are right in line with Merrimack, a smaller district, 59 - 60 million.

Billerica Mass educates 6600 students, or nearly 2000 more kids at a cost of 49 million, 10 million less than Merrimack. I will note they are also District in Need of improvement.


You need to be careful to compare apples to apples. Concord as a city pays for things like transportation out of the city budget (Nashua does the same) and not out of the schools. I believe that the same can be said for the Billerica budget (Not necessary transportation, but Mass handles special ed very different than we do in NH as far as who's budget what comes out of).

This is not to say that some schools educated more students with fewer dollars. Londonderry is an example, however almost all of the difference here is in salaries and they have a multi year contract in place with large raises in it. (Which is why each year their budget per student has been gaining on ours).

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Re: SB Myths: compared to all other towns, we spend too much

Postby GregRS » Fri Apr 06, 2007 6:54 am

RBarnes wrote:
GregRS wrote:The state average cost per pupil in total expenditures is $11,237.63.

Amherst spends $10,284.82
Londonderry spends $8,820.00
Hollis spends $9,491.78

Merrimack spends $9,451.21 and falls right in the middle of our area schools.

Source: NH Department of Education

Myth: Busted


Greg you aren't posting correct data here.

ALL costs factored in together average out at $11,237.63. That would be equal to our entire budget divided by how many kids we have. I don't have the numbers handy but I think we come out at sround $15,000 per kid when looking at ALL expenses.

The per child cost you list out excludes several costs. And when looking at the state average in that case it comes out at $9,098.56 so Merrimack IS higher then average. So sorry Greg, this myth is not only NOT busted but it is TRUE.

Here's a link to the actual data:

http://www.ed.state.nh.us/Education/dat ... ameset.htm


I stand corrected on the state average. It is 9,098.56. I incorrectly pulled the number from the paragraph above the table.

The point is that we are not totally out of line on cost per student spending. And as Ken points out, its very difficult to compare districts without looking at all the variables. Hudson, for example, pays very poorly, so that would have a significant impact on the budget. It can also have an impact on the quality of the educational environment and achievement.

As in other posts, this is not an excuse to keep on spending without control. Rose and Emily are both conservative when it comes to balancing services with costs. They only want the best for our kids, but with an approach includes wise business decisions.
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Postby JMac1000 » Fri Apr 06, 2007 1:28 pm

Ken

Point is well taken. I had not thought of the fact that transportation, for example, could be allocated through the municipal budget. I am sure you are correct. As I said in my note above, I do not think there is a significant amount of wasteful spending, despite what some may think. However, I am not close enough to the budget to really know for certain. Some are not close to the budget but seem to think they know! The School Board did do a nice job this budget season, and I believe they worked real hard at this budget before it was destroyed at DS, addding money back "just because".

When you see these bigger districts with smaller budgets, it begs the question as to why they can educate more with less. There is ALWAYS more to the story, and you gave some examples here. I still believe there needs to be more innovation, and a long term approach to maintaining cost increases, such as addressing health care. Am I wrong is saying that perhaps the school board is too absorbed in the present, when they should be looking at strategic ways to solve a long term structural problem?

Has anyone on the school board done a throrough analysis of spending in similar districts such as Londonderry, or Hudson to see if there is any way this district can be more efficient with the tax dollars? 59million dollars is lot of money for this community, and I know that it seems any effort to make cuts without impacting quality have been overturned at Deliberative Session.
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Postby GregRS » Fri Apr 06, 2007 1:50 pm

Jamie MacFarland wrote:Ken

Point is well taken. I had not thought of the fact that transportation, for example, could be allocated through the municipal budget. I am sure you are correct. As I said in my note above, I do not think there is a significant amount of wasteful spending, despite what some may think. However, I am not close enough to the budget to really know for certain. Some are not close to the budget but seem to think they know! The School Board did do a nice job this budget season, and I believe they worked real hard at this budget before it was destroyed at DS, addding money back "just because".

When you see these bigger districts with smaller budgets, it begs the question as to why they can educate more with less. There is ALWAYS more to the story, and you gave some examples here. I still believe there needs to be more innovation, and a long term approach to maintaining cost increases, such as addressing health care. Am I wrong is saying that perhaps the school board is too absorbed in the present, when they should be looking at strategic ways to solve a long term structural problem?

Has anyone on the school board done a throrough analysis of spending in similar districts such as Londonderry, or Hudson to see if there is any way this district can be more efficient with the tax dollars? 59million dollars is lot of money for this community, and I know that it seems any effort to make cuts without impacting quality have been overturned at Deliberative Session.


One of the most frustrating aspects of comparing our district budget to other districts is that there is no standard for reporting. If you look at Hudson's report, their detail is much finer grained than ours, plus, they use different techniques to categorize expenses. I tried to compare line item to line item their budget to ours and made very little progress.

I think a good first step would be to somehow have a common reporting framework that would make local comparisons a lot easier. We could then focus our attention on the underlying sources that steer the budgets in different directions. For example, is it maintenance, salaries or whatever.
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Postby Ken Coleman » Fri Apr 06, 2007 7:27 pm

Greg,

The state of NH numbers are an apples to apples comparision when used to compare spending per student.

Ken
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