Brunswick school aid result 'could have been a lot worse'

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BRUNSWICK — Although residents may believe their state education subsidy is being unfairly reduced, a Department of Education spokesman said that’s not the case.

“There’s no targeting,” spokesman David Connerty-Marin said. “It’s simply a matter of running the numbers through the formula.”

Try telling that to Superintendent of Schools Paul Perzanoski, who said “In situations like this, it’s far from objective.”

Perzanoski noted that in September, the DOE told the town to expect nearly $244,000 more than last year, which made the Feb. 2 announcement that the town would receive $1.2 million less even harder to understand.

Connerty-Marin said that until recently, the department has not issued funding predictions for exactly this reason.

“Things can change, sometimes dramatically, and we’ve always been worried about putting (an estimate) out,” he said. “We were asked enough by the superintendents that we finally agreed to do it with lots of warning signs all over the materials we put out.”

According to Connerty-Marin, the discrepancy is the result of declining student enrollment due to the closure of Brunswick Naval Air Station.

The DOE uses a three-year average of student enrollment when calculating subsidies. The fall prediction did not reflect Brunswick’s most recent enrollment data, which lowered the average.

“We understood that the number was going to change,” Perzanoski said. “We certainly knew that there was a good possibility that it was going to go down, but what we didn’t know is how substantially it was going to go down.”

Connerty-Marin said the cuts could have been even worse had the DOE only considered Brunswick’s current enrollment numbers, which are lower than the three-year average.

Because of this, he said, Brunswick received “an extra $1 million for kids they don’t have.”

“I’m not saying they should be happy,” he added, “but it could have been a lot worse.”

But it didn’t feel like that to Perzanoski, who said this year’s situation is made even more difficult because it follows two consecutive years of layoffs and programming cuts.

In addition to the state funding, the town will lose $693,000 in federal jobs bill funds, receive about $100,000 less in impact aid, which paid for children of Navy families to attend Brunswick schools, and absorb a $150,000 loss in tuition dollars from Durham students who are now in Regional School Unit 5.

School officials are encouraging residents to reach out to the legislative delegation. State Rep. Charlie Priest, D-Brunswick, met with Perzanoski on Monday and said he is looking into the funding cuts, but “the real question is, is there something that can be done about it?”

Perzanoski hopes so.

“This is not about blame,” he said. “This is about a community that is in a unique situation and we need consideration.”

Emily Guerin can be reached at 781-3661 ext.123 or eguerin@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @guerinemily.

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