Pembroke school district faces steep cuts next year amid shortfall

  • Voters cast their votes at the Pembroke school district meeting at Pembroke Academy Saturday, March 11, 2017. GEOFF FORESTER

Monitor staff
Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Pembroke officials are expecting a full house at Thursday night’s public hearing on the town and school district budgets for next year.

An unexpected shortfall of $1 million on the school side led to a steep spike in the tax rate this year, spurring district officials to take a scalpel to next year’s budget plan.

The school board presented a $25.32 million spending plan to the budget committee – a reduction of $1.38 million from this year’s budget. Along with a slew of cuts to supplies, the plan included cutting six teachers and 10 noncertified employees.

The hike in taxes this year compelled the board to make certain cuts, school board Chairman Dan Driscoll said. But some were also a matter of right-sizing the district in the face of continued enrollment declines.

“A good number of the teacher cuts were going to come regardless of the budget situation,” he said.

But the budget committee last week decided those reductions weren’t enough, and by a 6-3 vote, recommended axing another $770,000.

Gerry Fleury, the committee’s vicechairman, voted against the extra cuts.

“I’m not thrilled about paying higher taxes. But crucifying the school district is not the answer,” he said.

Anticipating that the budget committee would be asking for additional cuts, the school board had earlier asked administrators to compile a list of things to cut in the event of further reductions.

School officials complied, supplying the board with 29 ranked items to cut, totaling $1 million. They include cutting $10,000 in graduation expenses and slashing more than $90,000 from co-curricular activities, along with multiple staff and faculty cuts. Potential faculty cuts include a business and technology, life sciences and social sciences teacher. Two librarians, two custodians, a reading specialist and a speech pathologist could also go.

“Please come to the budget hearing. We’re looking for opinions from the public about what quality education they’re looking for in their schools,” Driscoll said.

The hearing is set for 7 p.m. in the Pembroke Academy auditorium. The school district’s annual meeting, when voters will have the final say on the budget, is scheduled for 10 a.m. March 10.

(Lola Duffort can be reached at 369-3321 or lduffort@cmonitor.com.)