Our View: The Monomoy Funding Formula

by The Cape Cod Chronicle

Harwich officials want to revisit the Monomoy Regional School District funding formula contained in the regional agreement between the town and Chatham. While it’s a good idea to revisit the regional agreement, in whole, on a regular basis, it’s important to point out that the funding formula was tweaked last year, and the basis for the latest concerns are somewhat questionable.

The existing formula, one used in regional school agreements across the state, bases funding on a rolling three-year enrollment average. Because Harwich has a larger student population, the town pays a larger share of the budget — 76.6 percent to Chatham’s 23.35 percent. That’s an increase for Harwich of slightly more than 3 percent since regionalization began, with a commensurate 3 percent drop for Chatham, although those figures have fluctuated over the last decade.

Based on Harwich’s concerns that it was subsidizing Chatham’s elementary school, the towns agreed last year that each community would cover the cost of its own elementary school. That basically shifted more than $750,000 from Harwich to Chatham, with nary a squawk from the latter. Harwich officials recently heard a presentation suggesting the town had paid tens of millions more than it would have without regionalization. That analysis, however, ignored the fact that Chatham helped foot the bill for the Monomoy High School building, saving Harwich millions over the cost of replacing the aging Harwich High School (the driving force behind regionalization). It’s also likely that had Harwich continued with its own school system, its annual education costs would have increased by many millions of dollars since 2013.

Beyond budgets, regionalization has had many benefits for both towns. There was, no doubt, savings by combining administrations and other programs, but melding the two school systems has brought the neighboring communities closer together. As we’ve written before, looking at different funding models would be an interesting exercise, but townspeople and officials should not expect a major change in the bottom line.