The Harwood Unified Union School District (HUUSD) budget passed on Town Meeting Day with 58 percent of voters signing off on $37,183,150.
Of 1,957 voters, 1,135 voted for and 812 voted against the HUUSD budget. Last year there were 2,193 voters and the budget passed with 64 percent voting in favor compared to 58 percent this year. There were 12 blank ballots.
A second article calling for $533,960 to be allocated to a districtwide reserve fund passed 1,377 to 542 with 40 spoiled ballots.
The night before Town Meeting Day, the HUUSD Board answered questions from residents about the budget at the Harwood Union library.
One resident asked how the maintenance reserve fund is compiled. Michelle Baker, the district’s director of operations and finance, explained that the reserve balances from individual schools are compiled into the district’s maintenance reserve fund.
Another resident commented on the athletics report in the school district’s report, which included mostly boys’ achievements. The board agreed with the resident.
Baker also explained the yield to the meeting’s attendees. Baker explained that the district’s spending per equalized pupil is divided by the yield in order to get to a tax rate, and the state Legislature determines the yield, which is supposed to be equal to a $1 tax rate.
“If we had cost per equalized pupil spending equal to the amount of the yield, our tax rate would be a dollar,” Baker said.
The district’s spending per equalized pupil this year is $17,137, which gets divided by the yield to create a tax rate of $1.74. With the 8-cent reduction that the district receives for merging early under Act 46, the estimated tax rate with no changes to the education funding formula is $1.66.
Another resident asked about the savings that the state promised with merging under Act 46. Superintendent Brigid Nease explained that the board is currently working on a redesign in hopes of saving money and building a stronger school district. The board will also be evaluating what the cost of doing nothing would be, once the merger incentives dissipate.
The HUUSD Board will hold a public forum and Q&A session in the Harwood Union auditorium on March 14 from 6 to 9 p.m. to discuss redesign as well as other issues such as healthy class sizes, combining grades in various buildings, closing schools, improving efficiencies and more.
The HUUSD Board has already started exploring some of these questions but is in the very early stages of the process. Although the board has not finalized a timeline, it is holding the March 14 session to engage with the public.