The amount of tax we have to raise is significantly impacted by the low percentage of HWRSD costs paid for by the state.  The chart below shows the percentage of our “foundation budget” (the level of spending the state feels is minimally adequate) that is paid for by the state.


Preliminary Chapter 70 FY 2012

Preliminary Chapter 70 FY 2012 (Click to enlarge)

HWRSD gets less than half of the amount of state funding provided to the average district in the state. The Chapter 70 formula takes into account aggregate property values and aggregate income levels of the residents of the town supporting a school district.  The State uses this formula to vary funding to school districts greatly — from 100% funding for some districts to as low as 17.5% to others.  In FY 2010 HWRSD received only 20.8% of its foundation budget from the state.  In FY 2011, this translated to state funding for 12.4% of our actual spending, since we spend above the state-mandated minimum.

Forcing a significant portion of school funding onto local revenue sources creates significant inequities in property tax rates.  In 2011, property taxes ranged from $2.13 per $1,000 of assessed value in Chilmark, MA to $19.49 per $1,000 of assessed value in Springfield, MA, a more than 9x spread.   Compared to other states, MA relies heavily on local property taxes to fund its public schools.  The chart below shows that Massachusetts is in the top 10 of all states in terms of the percentage of public school revenue derived from local property taxes.

Percent Public School Funding From Local Revenue (2008 Data)

Percent Public School Funding From Local Revenue (2008 Data) (Click to enlarge)

The overall 52.8% local share of public school funding in Massachusetts is high compared to other states, but as we see in the Chapter 70 chart above, some towns and cities are required to cover much higher percentages, up to 82.5%, of public school expenses.  With the 80% local funding share imposed on HWRSD under Chapter 70, Hamilton and Wenham’s  school funding burden is very high and tax rates will remain higher than average even if the HWRSD spending level were reduced to the state average, or below.

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