UPDATED: L-S Acts To Implement Recent Mass SJC Ruling On Regional School District Funding
(EDITOR'S NOTE: The following was submitted by Nancy Marshall. Selectman Bob Haarde offered a statement to Sudbury Patch on Thursday morning.)
The Lincoln-Sudbury Regional School District is working to implement a revised formula for regional school district funding, based on a recent Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruling. The LSRHS funding formula has historically been based on student enrollment numbers, as outlined in the Regional Agreement between Lincoln and Sudbury. The SJC ruling makes it clear that, going forward, regional school districts must apportion fees based both on enrollment and a wealth-based calculation.
Lincoln-Sudbury was informed of the ramifications of the ruling by Lincoln Town Administrator Tim Higgins in mid-April. In processing the information with legal counsel and with the executive director of the Massachusetts Association of Regional Schools, the District concluded that the ruling would increase the contribution from Lincoln and decrease the contribution from Sudbury. The ruling may also require a vote at Lincoln and Sudbury town meetings to formally recognize the change in funding formula that will be required going forward. As an example, based upon current fiscal year 2013 budget calculations, the estimated change up or down for the towns would be approximately $166,000, or 0.6 percent of the FY13 level-staff budget.
On Tuesday evening, Steve Hemman, executive director of the Massachusetts Association of Regional Schools, briefed Lincoln and Sudbury town officials, a representative from each towns’ Board of Selectmen and Finance Committees, and representatives from the Sudbury Public Schools Committee and the L-S School Committee about the ruling.
If necessary, the LSRHS Regional Agreement may be changed to conform to the new formula through an addendum or amendment. The District will be working to understand and communicate the legal mechanics and timing going forward. Lincoln concluded its Town Meeting on March 24, voting a level-staff budget in support of Lincoln-Sudbury for Fiscal Year 2013. Sudbury convenes its Town Meeting beginning Monday, May 7.
The impact of the ruling, change in funding formula and time needed for legal process will be explored to facilitate accurate budgetary information and discussions between LSRHS, Lincoln and Sudbury.
L-S School Committee Chair Nancy Marshall said: “The role of the District in this matter will be to convene conversations with both towns regarding this decision and its ongoing fiscal impact. The processing of the ruling is complicated by the timing, with one Town meeting concluded and the other about to commence. Sudbury is concluding their budget hearings this week, preparing for their Town Meeting next Monday, and all cost centers in Sudbury are continuing their collective bargaining efforts. We all want to better understand any potential impact and the implementation process of this decision. The District will do all it can to provide timely, appropriate discussions and conclusions about how the high school is funded.”
Selectman Bob Haarde told Sudbury Patch he thinks it's time for Sudbury to stop paying more than it should for Lincoln-Sudbury.
"The SJC has confirmed what many have believed for a long time. Sudbury has been paying more than our share for L-S," he said. "This affects our K-8 system. Since we pay more than our fair share for L-S, we have less money to spend on our K-8 system. For years we have been told by attorneys that the Regional Agreement was the basis for maintaining the status quo. It is painfully ironic that the SJC has just ruled the Regional Agreement to be in violation of the 1993 Education Reform Act. These payments to Sudbury should be retroactive to 1993. Sudbury has been financially and educationally disadvantaged by the L-S Regional Agreement for a long time."