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Per Capita Education Spending: How Does Watertown Compare?

Watertown has the sixth lowest per capita spending on education out of the 25 cities and towns used in the comparison.

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 Watertown 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 26 cities and towns in the area on per capita education spending, with the Pioneer Institute using figures from fiscal years 2009 through 2011 obtained from the state Department of Revenue's Division of Local Services.

Watertown has the sixth lowest per capita spending on education out of the 25 cities and towns used in the comparison. At $852 per person, Watertown spends more per person on education than Medford (the lowest with $669), Somerville, Arlington, Malden and Melrose. The town spends less than neighbors Waltham ($1,007), Belmont ($1,218) and Newton ($1,526).

The town's per capita education spending also dropped in fiscal 2011 from the year before, when the town spent $994 per person. In fiscal 2009, Watertown spent $968 per person.

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? Is there a reason why Watertown's per capita education spending would be lower than these other communities? 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.

 City/Town              FY09
FY10
FY11 State Median 1,296
1,300 1,251
Andover 1,777 1,794 1,850 Arlington 979 985 740 Belmont 1,452 1,393 1,218 Burlington 1,661 1,699 1,772 Cambridge 991 975 1,020 Chelmsford 1,295 1,301 1,359 Lexington 2,131 2,131 2,168 Lynnfield 1,696 1,659 1,687 Malden 893 907 828 Medford 792 778 669 Melrose 1,038 1,011 814 Middleton 1,476 1,564 1,570 North Andover 1,308 1,322 1,318 North Reading 1,393 1,606 1,600 Newton 1,625 1,618 1,526 Reading 1,556 1,491 1,484 Saugus 895 948 978 Somerville 611 621 538 Stoneham 1,033 1,050 1,009 Tewksbury 1,228 1,276 1,274 Wakefield 1,081 1,075 1,105 Waltham 997 1,000 1,007 Watertown 968 994 852 Wilmington 1,667 1,592 1,643 Winchester 1,492 1,485 1,569 Woburn 1,221 1,166 1,224

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