The Milton School District hasn’t done the best job explaining to the community why voters should allow it to continue exceeding its revenue limit by $2.5 million a year, but we believe the district has made good use of the extra money for the past five years and should be allowed to continue.
Voters in November 2016 approved a referendum allowing the Milton district to exceed its revenue limit by $2.5 million a year for five years. The referendum now on the ballot would allow the district to continue doing the same for five more years—from the 2021-22 school year through the 2025-26 school year.
How much would it cost the owner of a $100,000 home? District officials during a conversation with The Gazette Editorial Board weren’t immediately able to answer that question, which was concerning. That seems like an obvious question.
They later provided an answer by email: It would cost $119 for the owner of a home with $100,000 in equalized value. Because it would continue what the district has been doing for the past five years, the referendum, if approved, wouldn’t increase tax bills.
The district would continue to use the money to help cover operating expenses, about 80% of which is staffing cost.
“That allows us to keep class sizes at an effective level,” Superintendent Rich Dahman said.
Some also would be used to pay school maintenance and utilities costs that have increased as the district has added square footage with building additions.
Dahman agreed the referendum also is a hedge against the prospect of a state funding cut resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
How has staffing changed in the past five years while the district had access to an extra $2.5 million a year? Did the district hire more administrators or more teachers?
District officials didn’t have an immediate answer but provided information by email later that between the 2015-16 and 2019-20 school years, it added 29 full-time equivalents, including one administrator, 14 teachers and 11 special education aides. Taxpayers should be pleased the bulk of the positions added has been instructional staff.
That supports the position of district officials that the current referendum will help maintain and improve classroom instruction.
Although we were concerned district officials didn’t have answers about cost and staffing at their fingertips and, presumably, have not been sharing that information with the public, their eventual answers satisfied the editorial board.
We believe voters should approve the referendum to help the Milton School District maintain what everybody agrees has been high-quality instruction.