By on December 3, 2013

By Lory Hough

Have you ever wondered how much of your tax dollars cover teacher salaries? Or what it would take to fund a librarian for all of the elementary schools in Melrose? Are you interested in how the school district’s budget is developed and planned?

All of these questions and more will be addressed on Tuesday, Dec. 3 at a citywide public forum at the Roosevelt School sponsored by the Melrose Education Foundation, the city of Melrose and Melrose Public Schools. (See forum details in the box, top right.)

At the forum, parents and community members will learn the ins and outs of school funding, as well as the ways they can — and should — have a say in how the budget is allocated.

“As a community, we have an opportunity, and a responsibility, to learn how our schools budget is developed and how our priorities are reflected in that process,” says Lisa Lewis, president of the Melrose Education Foundation. “I encourage everyone to attend this forum and be part of the discussion.”

In an effort to jumpstart the conversation, the forum will give the community a nuts-and-bolts overview of the school budget, including where the money comes from, such as Chapter 70 education aid, the state’s primary program for distributing K-12 public education funding to the 328 local and regional school districts in Massachusetts.

Speakers such as Mayor Robert Dolan, Superintendent Cyndy Taymore, school business manager James Picone and auditor Patrick Dello Russo will also help audience members understand what makes up the school budget, when the city develops the plan and why factors such as special education and charter school funding have an impact.

They will also look at how profitable, revolving funds like Education Stations get funneled back into the school system. The second half of the forum will tackle questions submitted by parents and community members.

This week, Christina Gagliano sent in her question: “How can the city, which lacks a large business tax base and depends heavily on homeowners’ property taxes, make the investments in education needed to take our public schools to the next level?”

Gagliano also plans on attending the forum.

“As the parent of two elementary school students, and as a Melrose taxpayer, I am interested in finding out how funding needs are prioritized,” she says.

Mayor Dolan, a graduate of Melrose schools and the father of two children, says forums like this are the heart of any good city.

“Melrose is a community that continues to strive to improve our schools and learning environment for students of all abilities,” he says. “However, understanding data and school budgets isn’t always easy. Having informational meetings like this, where we can help parents get a better sense of where money goes, how priorities are formed and the tradeoffs that come with those decisions, is a great opportunity for a meaningful community discussion.”

Lory Hough is a member of the Melrose Education Foundation.

Read this article in the Melrose Free Press.