Over the last couple of weeks, we here at The Evening Sun have been reporting on the proposed school budgets for districts around the county. It was surprising for me to see the wide range of budgets, from Otselic Valley, the smallest school in the district with a proposed budget of $8.1 million to Norwich, one of the largest schools with a proposed budget of $32.3 million.
It’s obvious that bigger schools need more money to provide for larger student populations, but schools like Otselic Valley seem to get the short end of the stick. The declining enrollment rate over the past 6 years has led to less state funding, and with a rural and sparsely populated district, a tax levy increase of one percentage point only raises $23,000 for the school. Unless something changes, I don’t know how the school is going to continue to operate.
As a graduate of OVCS, I have seen all that the school has to offer. They have excellent test scores, great teachers, many of whom have been there for years and have a stake in the community. Programs that rival larger schools. (The Varsity Boy’s Basketball team won the Class III D2 Championship this year.) But how long can the school continue in this fashion. No one wants to see the school dissolve and the students there have to be shipped out to other districts, but without some means of increasing the revenue, it seems like this could be a possibility in the future.
This year, the school will be cutting three teaching positions and two members of the support staff, and who knows what the future may hold. I hope for the sake of the community that the school is able to find some way to sustain the financial hardships without additional losses of staff or worse, but without a fresh source of revenue, I cannot imagine how it will be possible.