Wilmington Town Meeting Voters Reject $500,000 Cut To Schools, Approve $45.9 Million Budget

WILMINGTON, MA — Wilmington Public Schools had a very good day at the 2022 Annual Town Meeting on Saturday.

By a 182-22 vote, Town Meeting overwhemingly rejected a proposed $500,000 budget cut to the school budget. The Finance Committee, by a 6-2 vote, had amended the Town Manager’s recommended budget (from $45.9 million to $45.4 million), arguing a decrease was justified since the school district’s enrollment continues to decline, with future declines projected. Voters, ultimately, disagreed.

Finance Committee Chair John Doherty made the motion, providing data which highlighted the district’s decline in students. Overall enrollment dropped more than 800 students over the past 10 years, while the town’s portion of the school budget has risen from $30.7 million to $45.9 million. Doherty also noted that approximately half of Wilmington 8th graders are now leaving the district to attend high school elsewhere. Wilmington’s enrollment at the Shawsheen Tech is spiking, with Wilmington’s budget to the Tech increasing 20% for next fiscal year. Doherty noted the district’s own projected enrollment numbers indicate overall enrollment will continue to decline.

School Committee members Dr. Jennifer Bryson, David Ragsdale, MJ Byrnes, Jesse Fennelly and Jay Samaha spoke out against the cuts, as did several parents in attendance. Speakers argued that decreasing the budget would be counterproductive — hurting the district’s efforts to retain more of its students. Several speakers noted that approximately 80% of the budget accounts for salaries of teachers and staff, and cuts to the budget would result in positions being eliminated, having a direct impact on student learning. Speakers highlighted the district’s ongoing efforts to improve student retention, including programming reviews at the middle school and high school levels. Some speakers noted that basing funding solely on student enrollment is flawed, noting that request for special education evaluations are more than double what they were pre-COVID, and that initiatives and improvements the district may seek to implement at the middle school and high school over the next few years will cost money.

In addition to successfully defeating the $500,000 cut, Wilmington schools got more good news on several fronts at the Town meeting:

  • resurfacing the Frank Kelley Track at the High School’s alumni stadium for $520,000. (Article 12)
  • resurfacing the teacher parking lot at the Middle School for $200,000. (Article 13)
  • replacing the roof (24,000 square feet) at the Shawsheen Elementary School for $825,000. (Article 20)
  • funding the design phase of a future roof replacement (19,124 square feet) at the West Intermediate School for $50,000. (Article 21)
  • funding the design phase of replacing 2 oil fire boilers at the Woburn Street School for $80,000. (Article 22)
  • replacing interactive projectors and classroom sound system at the Woburn Street School for $80,000. (Article 23)
  • replacing interactive projectors and classroom sound system at the High School for $125,000. (Article 24)
  • replacing and upgrading PA systems at the early childhood centers and elementary schools for $24,000. (Article 25)
  • replacing network switches at the early childhood centers and elementary schools for $170,000. (Article 26)
  • replacing wireless networks at the early childhood centers and elementary schools for $54,000. (Article 27)

(Cover photo from Town Moderator Jonathan Eaton’s Facebook page.)

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