Per Capita Education Spending: How Does Northborough Compare?

Find out how the town's per capita spending on education compares to nearby cities and towns in Massachusetts.

As the school year approaches, parents will hear about new investments in their local school system or, sometimes, cuts to teachers and budgets.

But how much does Northborough spend on education for each person in town—in financial terms, its per capita education spending?

The Pioneer Institute, a Massachusetts public policy research organization, recently released a spreadsheet tool to accompany its new handbook, "Guide to Sound Fiscal Management for Municipalities." The spreadsheet tool allows anyone to compare how much a city or town spends on various services, and how much the city or town spends per capita.

Patch used the tool to compare 10 cities and towns in the area on per capita education spending. The Pioneer Institute cited figures from fiscal years 2009 through 2011, obtained from the state Department of Revenue's Division of Local Services.

Northborough spent slightly more than the state average in 2011, the most recent fiscal year reported. The state's average was $1,273; Northborough spent $1,846.

The town's per capita education spending has increased each year, though for Northborough, hardly. In fiscal year 2011, Northborough spent $24 more per person than it did in fiscal year 2009.

Of 10 MetroWest-area towns (Framingham, Grafton, Holliston, Hopkinton, Marlborough, Milford, Natick, Northborough, Shrewsbury and Westborough), Northborough was on the bottom half of spending. Still, each of the communities spent more per capita than the state average.

Note that per capita education spending is not the same as per pupil education spending. The former counts every person in town, while the latter only counts students in the school system.

Do these figures seem right to you? You can review the figures in the table below, and tell us what you think of the results in the comments section at the bottom of this article.

You can also download the Pioneer Institute's spreadsheet tool yourself and create your own comparisons. 

Per Capita Education Spending By City/Town

The data below were obtained from the Mass DOR Division of Local Services General Fund Expenditure Worksheets. The spending figures presented below are based on the general funds spent by a municipality on education. General funds cover only a portion of a pupil's education cost, according to the Pioneer Institute, and that portion varies widely among the state's cities and towns. Cities and towns are listed in alphabetical order. Figures reflect dollar amounts.

City/Town FY09 FY10 FY11 State Median 1,298 1,307 1,273 Framingham 1,431 1,415 1,422 Grafton 1,223 1,265 1,344 Holliston 1,914 1,943 1,889 Hopkinton 2,197 2,217 2,201 Marlborough 1,339 1,313 1,334 Milford 1,316 1,394 1,389 Natick 1,352 1,329 1,368 Northborough 1,822 1,824 1,846 Shrewsbury 1,346 1,308 1,308 Westborough 2,092 2,113 2,115

Hannah August 23, 2012 at 01:24 PM
Maybe I am reading it wrong but Grafton gets mentioned quite a bit in this article where Northborough should be the town talked about. It just seems weird because the title implies you're going to talk mostly about Northborough and how it compares but you mention Grafton more often. Is this a typo or is Grafton the town you intended to talk about?
Danielle Horn August 23, 2012 at 01:33 PM
Hi, Hannah - thanks for catching that mistake! All of the numbers where Grafton was mentioned were indeed Northborough. The story has been modified to reflect that. So, the numbers were right (for Northborough); the town was wrong. Sorry for any confusion!
Bob Weir August 23, 2012 at 05:44 PM
This article is a fools barometer. The amount of money a town throws at their school system is not a measure of it's performance. Test scores and retained knowledge is. Shrewsbury and Grafton spend about 40% less per capita. Are our test scores 40% higher? I think not. Perhaps that have a better run schools system with less inefficiences. They might have better purchasing departments and contract negotiators. Their town government might value their taxpayers money more and not squander it as if it grows on trees. And "per capita", who's the fool that uses that as a measure? What if one town has a disproportionate number of senior housing units or low rent appartments typically filled by young singles or couples with no children? More capita but less students....sure that makes good perfect "per capita" sense. How about per STUDENT!!


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