The Wachusett Regional School District maintains one of the strongest educational programs in Central Massachusetts, utilizing resources to support our students and staff. The District budget was passed earlier in FY17 than in FY16, and we are very grateful for the support shown to us by the Member Towns.
With our current FY17 budget in place, the WRSD defined areas of need by developing the WRSD Strategic Plan. Working in conjunction with the Massachusetts Association of Regional Schools (MARS), a Strategic Plan Steering Committee was established. The Steering Committee consisted of twenty-three members representing a variety of stakeholders from the Wachusett community. In order to gain feedback from the community, a survey was conducted which produced over 2,000 responses. Focus group meetings were held in all 13 schools and in each Member Town. Drawing on the information gathered, the Steering Committee established five learning domains from which strategic objectives, priority initiatives, and action plans have been crafted.
The WRSD Strategic Plan provides the Wachusett community with a sense of purpose as we define priorities and set budgets. Each school has developed a School Improvement Plan that ties directly back to the Strategic Plan and will help define budget priorities at both the building and District levels. Goals that have been set by administrators and teachers will have common themes connected to the five learning domains, thus helping bring our five town district toward common educational outcomes.
I often reference the fact that the WRSD has one of the lowest per pupil expenditures in Massachusetts. The most recent figures from the state have our district per pupil expenditure as the lowest in the state among all regional school districts and the 7th lowest of 320 school districts. As I mentioned last year, all of the school districts that surround Wachusett have greater per pupil expenditures. Our per pupil amount could be increased if the state agrees to follow through with the recommendations of the Chapter 70 Foundation Budget Review Commission which found the funding for areas such as health insurance and special education were well under what is necessary to adequately support school districts. I applaud the efforts our our state representatives on Beacon Hill to support education and encourage them to continue their fight for education and regional school districts.
The current budget request for FY18 reflects a connection to the WRSD Strategic Plan as we focus on areas such as early literacy, science, professional development, and student health and wellness. Budget increases are primarily due to contractual obligations, increases in health insurance, and a cost increase to our utilities. In order to provide our students with a comprehensive educational program, I feel that the current request supports our district plan as well as the needs of our educational system.
FY18 Budget Narrative