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Marblehead Schools Host Forum on Override Question 2

Marblehead School Committee Chair Sarah Gold and School Superintendent John Buckey hosted a public forum on Tuesday morning, May 24th on Ballot Question 2: a request for additional school funding. The forum was held at the Brown School, with approximately twenty people attending via Zoom and in person. 


Question 2, after passing a two-thirds majority vote at Town Meeting on May 3, seeks approval for a permanent general Proposition 2½ override to increase taxes for an additional $3.05 million for the school budget. Gold and Buckey presented the request in several categories, including one-time expenses ($880,471) and recurring expenses ($2.17 million). One-time expenses include items for safety ($584,900), technology ($21,500), curriculum ($184,564), and equipment/maintenance ($89,507). Recurring expenses included safety ($32,000), technology ($35,000), personnel ($1,133,282 for salaries, with an additional $497,000 in benefits), curriculum ($98,341), and tuition-free all-day kindergarten ($375,000).


Buckey highlighted specific items, including a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Coordinator. He listed several arguments in support of this position, including curriculum evaluation, instructional coaching, and evaluation of resources and library materials. He gave an example of why we need this position in Marblehead here.


Gold reviewed the list of personnel to be added in this funding, if approved, including approximately 20 new non-classroom positions, including bus drivers, two custodians, a full-time groundskeeper, a high school attendance clerk, and several substitutes and aides. 


The proposal also seeks to provide access to free full-day kindergarten for all students, regardless of financial means. Currently Marblehead provides free half-day kindergarten 8:00 AM to 12:00 PM for all residents, as is required by state law, and free full-day kindergarten for students with individualized education plans. Students from families of limited means are also already eligible for free full-day kindergarten, and families of modest means pay tuition for the afternoon extended session on a sliding scale.


The “curriculum” category includes a list of materials for various schools and subjects, including science, engineering, and social studies. The majority of these costs–$184,564–are one-time costs, with $98,341 earmarked for ongoing curriculum needs.


The “safety” category has the largest non-personnel budget at $584,000. Items in this category include new radios and new entry doors at Marblehead High School, as well upgrades to the security system at the Village School.


The tax impact of this permanent override for the first year, as explained by Gold, is $310.53 for the median home in town, currently valued at $738,000. For homes valued at $400,000 and $1,000,000, the annual tax increase would be $168.31 and $420.77, respectively. However, this amount will increase each year as the tax levy increases under Proposition 2½. 


When questioned about the large amount attributed to one-time charges, where and how these monies will be spent in the future, and if there is a guarantee that the monies will be used to maintain facilities, Gold replied, ”[E]ach year it would be addressed as to what is funded through the budget process….”


Additional forums will be held on Wednesday, June 8 and Monday, June 13, both at 7:00 PM at the Marblehead High School library. When asked about where the community can find this information or links to Zoom meetings, as May 24th's had not been easily accessible to town residents not receiving school emails, Gold agreed that, so long as the School Committee can stay within the parameters of the ethical requirements not to advocate a political position, the next two forums would be posted on the town's public meeting website. The links were added here.


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