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Editorial: School budget sanity

The Ashland School District’s budget for next year is notable for what it doesn’t do — and that’s a good thing.

The district’s 2018-19 budget approved by thew Budget Committee last week is $3.2 million richer, thanks to local tax receipts and increased state support. But don’t look for new programs and enhanced offerings.

Most of the increase will go to the rising cost of the Public Employee Retirement System, health care premiums for employees and staff salaries. Much of the remainder will go to start building a reserve fund for what district officials know will be even more increased costs in years to come. The target is 9 percent of the district’s annual budget.

That’s prudent, given the reality of PERS payments and rising personnel costs. And even that won’t prevent the necessity of cutbacks in future school years.

Ashland is blessed with a top-notch school system, supported by residents who have been generous with their tax dollars, providing extra money to maintain that excellence. But that support is not unlimited, and the district has seen enrollment declines because the high cost of living has kept families with school-age children from moving here.

District administrators are already involving school principals in the budget process by asking them to justify spending at the school level. Decisions going forward will mesh budget decisions with the district’s strategic plan.

Ashland has much to be proud of when it comes to its schools. Administrators and board members deserve much of the credit for that.