Wareham Selectmen discuss possible revenue sharing with schools

Dec 18, 2018

Selectmen agreed on Tuesday night to discuss the possibility of entering a revenue sharing agreement with the School Department in effort to simplify the annual budget process.

Adopting this policy would remove some of the guesswork currently done by the schools, said Town Administrator Derek Sullivan, giving officials a better idea of how much money there is to actually go around.

Essentially, town and school officials would agree on a formula that decides how funds from municipal revenue are allocated between the two entities each year.

Currently, the School Department approaches the town with its annual budget request, which is based of the needs of principals and teachers.

The amount requested is historically higher than the town can afford, leading to several rounds of negotiations and various cuts.

Selectman Patrick Tropeano said that this annual back and forth was taxing for residents to watch and damaged trust in town officials.

“When we say we don’t have the money, but then find a way to make things work, it’s damaging,” he said. “It makes people not believe us, and it hurts us when we need to get things done.”

Just this year, the school department trimmed its initial request of over $31 million for fiscal year 2020 down to roughly $29 million in a little over two weeks.

“This is demoralizing for teachers and principals who just want to do what’s best for their kids,” Tropeano said. “We need to come up with something that’s fair for everyone.”

Selectman Peter Teitelbaum agreed.

“We need to come to an understanding that this process can’t always be about wants,” he said. “It’s about what’s available.”

Similar revenue sharing agreements are in place at other cities and towns around the state and have been recognized as a best practice by the Massachusetts Department of Revenue.

According to Sullivan, Wareham already has the necessary documents in place to enter into a sharing agreement with the school department.

The two just have to come together in agreement, he said.