District facing ‘severe financial crisis’
By Melanie Petrucci, Senior Community Reporter
Shrewsbury – In a sobering report, Dr. Joseph Sawyer, superintendent of schools, told the School Committee at its Jan. 27 meeting that the ability to meet the needs of the Shrewsbury Public Schools students has been threatened by a “structural funding dilemma” that the community has faced for many years.
In his annual “State of the School District,” Sawyer noted that “these are extraordinary times.”
“Our schools continue to provide an excellent education to our students and great value to the community while navigating the most challenging circumstances that our schools have faced in most of our lifetimes,” he added.
Sawyer acknowledged the “incredible work” of the Shrewsbury Public Schools staff in response to the pandemic. And that it has been done in an uncertain environment while staff made personal sacrifices in the midst of a significant budget deficit that resulted in staff cuts unrelated to COVID-19.
“The pandemic has created the greatest crisis regarding the academic, social, and emotional needs of our children that we have faced in decades,” he continued. “Our children are counting on us to help them…”
Ongoing issues outside of pandemic
Other issues that have affected the educational climate by creating an environment of divisiveness were the nation’s political and racial justice crises.
He reiterated the longstanding structural funding dilemma and asked what will the community do to solve the problem.
“If we don’t answer that question, unfortunately the future possibility of significantly compromised educational quality is now dangerously close to becoming a reality in Shrewsbury,” Sawyer stated.
“I am not pleased that we are in this situation to put it mildly. We are facing a severe financial crisis as the superintendent has indicated…this is a town that does not have the revenues necessary to meet the service expectations of the residents,” remarked committee member Jason Palitsch.
He added that Shrewsbury is a very well managed community but no one can manage their way out of this severe and growing structural deficit.
His colleague Dale Magee said that the town needs to address this and “see if a [Proposition- 2 ½] override is indicated”.
“We are facing a multi-million dollar deficit coming up that will lead to substantial cuts that have been greater than we have seen in the past,” Magee said. “That’s what we need to help us. Money is not going to come from the sky.”
Committee Chair Sandra Fryc remarked that the budget for fiscal year (FY) 2022 will begin in earnest at their next meeting to be held Wednesday, Feb. 10.
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