To The Editor:

This letter is addressed to:

Dear members of our school district,

We ask you to support the school district budget at the special HUUSD budget vote on June 16 and to request a mail-in ballot from your town clerk.

The budget we put before voters on Town Meeting Day failed. Since then, we have developed a second budget. We believe the new budget for $39,751,941, ensures high-quality education for our students and makes responsible use of your tax dollars.

The revised budget doesn’t include the consolidation of any grades and maintains the current school configurations. The savings previously projected from mergers have been made through strategic cuts throughout the district, including reductions in spending on professional development, adjusting staffing for current student enrollments and savings through staff retirements. We thought these cuts were acceptable while the district completes its long-term planning process and wades through this COVID storm.

The revised budget is $20,401 less than the one proposed last March. Because of offsetting revenues, education spending by the district is reduced by approximately $112,000 from the current 2020 school year. The total proposed expenditures are 3% higher than last year’s budget, lower than the statewide average of almost 5%. This increase is driven by double-digit health insurance increases, previously negotiated salary increases and maintenance needs in the schools. Student population continues to decline, which impacts the resulting equalized tax rate.

Since March, COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on our state’s economy, which will impact the education fund. There has been some talk of a statewide response in the Legislature and from the governor. There has been no guidance on what we can expect for assistance for the upcoming school year. We anticipate sharing a budget fact sheet and a list of frequently asked questions through our website.

On June 16, voting will vary by town, but the town clerks are working with the secretary of state’s office to meet COVID-19 guidelines and ensure open, democratic participation. While there will be in-person voting, voters are strongly urged to request absentee ballots by calling or emailing their town clerk. These ballots must be returned by June 16.

Caitlin Hollister, chair

Torrey Carroll Smith, vice chair