February 20, 2019

Why an Override?


As many of you know, on July 17, 2018 the Town of Rehoboth will be having a special election to override Proposition 2 1/2. My hope, through this communication, is to provide you with important information to guide you through a deeper understanding of why an override is necessary. A successful override accomplishes two goals: 1) It immediately puts teachers, secretaries, para professionals, custodians, School Resource Officer, nurse, lunch monitors, sports, activities and administrators back into our schools. (105 staff received notifications of layoffs), and 2) It fully funds the school district budget and the Town of Rehoboth's municipal budget.

The funding problem we see today has its origins that date back approximately five years ago before I became your superintendent. At that time, the school committee engaged outside services of a consultant group to review the financials (Chapter 70 Funding) of the district. During the review, the consultant found that the school assessments to the towns had the Town of Dighton incorrectly paying an additional $1.7 million dollars . The Town of Rehoboth, according to the consultants, instead, should have been paying the $1.7M. During the 2014 Rehoboth Town Meeting, though several parliamentarian maneuverings, $1.7 million dollars was moved from the municipal budget and was added to the school district budget. Thus, when I became your superintendent in 2014-2015, my administration was allotted a school budget with the $1.7 million dollars in tact. In 2014 the Town of Rehoboth sought an override in order to cover their shortfall, but it failed by 303 votes, whereby causing layoffs and reductions in town services in the Town of Rehoboth.

Unfortunately, the following fiscal year 2016 we knew that the $1.7 million dollars previously added to the school budget would not be available as a revenue stream. With this in mind, the Town of Rehoboth and the DRRSD made a conscientious decision to stay within their allotted budget and through cost reductions, restructuring our secretaries at the school level, adding free cash at the municipal level and E & D monies (free cash) at the school district level, we were able to balance the budget. The next fiscal year 2017 the school district worked collaboratively with the Town of Rehoboth to reduce our budget by approximately $1.3 million dollars. However, this time we reduced our staff by 28.5 positions while using our E & D monies (free cash) and the Town of Rehoboth doing the same for fiscal year 2018. Once again, we were able to balance our budget going into the Rehoboth Town Meeting while working with our Rehoboth Municipality as partners.

As fiscal year 2019 approached we tried to reduce our budget through efficiencies and using $1.25 million of E & D monies, but we were no longer able to achieve a sustainable budget number and finally determined that we needed to stop 'kicking the can down the road'. Once again, we were stymied by the elusive shortfall of $1.2- 1.7 million dollars that comes up each year since 2014 as it was determined that Dighton was no longer responsible for those payments. To make matters worse for the school district for fiscal year 2019, the Finance Committee and the Board of Selectman in Rehoboth unilaterally moved a municipal deficit of $900,000 into the school district line budget triggering a whopping $2.1 million dollar override.

Nevertheless, the current proposed override, will restore the DRRSD budget $1.2 million and the Town of Rehoboth's budget $900,000 to be fully funded for years to come. As I have stated, I do not anticipate this being a recurrent pattern of needing a proposition override each year. We have never had one in the rich history of the school district, why would folks think that we now need one every year.

It is my sincere hope that this correspondence has given you sufficient information with an overview of the reasons why a proposition 2 1/2 override is crucial for both the Town of Rehoboth and the Rehoboth School District. Please consider a "yes" vote on July 17, 2018, which will "fix the funding" and "save our schools" and our town.

In the event that you plan on being away on July 17th, please consider an absentee ballot and click here to find out more about the override ballot questions and how to obtain an absentee ballot: https://www.town.rehoboth.ma.us/home/urgent-alerts/upcoming-2-12-override-election-7-17-18-700-am-800-pm-all-3-precincts-open

Anthony C. Azar, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools
Dighton-Rehoboth Regional School District


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