School Department Struggles with Budget Realities

By Sue Ellen Woodcock

Keeping programs alive is something School Committee Chair Dawn Sullivan wants to see the school department do when it fine-tunes its fiscal year 2018 budget.

Superintendent of Schools John Macero has submitted the budget to the town manager, who will in turn hand it to the town council for approval.

“Next year is a rough year, no doubt about it,” Macero said “The operational budget did go up because of the contract. Each day the budget changes a little.”

But this year, even as the budget request is 4.6 percent or $1.2 million over FY17 budget there will be a loss of staff. The staff that remains recently settled a three-year contract with a 4 percent increase.

It was argued that the increases were needed to help retain teachers and make the district competitive with others.

Next year the district will lose seven teachers, three ESP positions, one curriculum director and a custodian is retiring. Macero added that in the fall there will also be nine maternity leaves in the district. The will also be some classroom sections added and there will be some classes with more than 25 students in them.

“I‘m committed to not decreasing programs,” Sullivan said. “It’s not ok to have 26, 27 or 28 in a classroom.”

At last week’s School Committee meeting School Committee member Brian Perrin suggested an examination of the various fees students are charged for activities such as sports and music and compare them with other communities. He also was not thrilled with the maintenance field position for Miller Field and wondered if the DPW could help out. Macero said the idea was to have the person work at the field and in the winter float between the schools.

“It’s difficult for me to agree with putting on a field position when we’re losing teachers and paraprofessionals. I don’t think it’s a priority,” Perrin said.

School Committee member Ron Vecchia said he agreed with Perrin on the maintenance position. He reminded the committee about looking into outsourcing transportation and janitorial services.

“I lose sleep over the fact we’re losing ESPs and teachers,” Vecchia said. “It bothers me that we’re losing these teachers and not really taking a hard look at other areas of the budget.”

As talk turned to revenue, Macero suggested one way to increase revenue is to increase a couple of students in the International Program.

“Next year will be a rough one no doubt about it,” Macero said

Also adding to the cost next year will be the increase in the educational hours in the elementary schools. Students will now spend 990 hours at school.

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