Categories: News

Town Council Passes Fiscal Year 2025 Budget

By Adam Swift

The town council approved a $61.2 million operating budget for Fiscal Year 2025 during a special meeting Tuesday night, despite some concerns about financial challenges the school department is facing.

The school department is facing a $1.4 million shortfall to provide a level-services budget in FY25, and the town and the schools are preparing for a Proposition 2-½ override to cover anticipated budget shortfalls in FY26 and beyond.

Council President said Superintendent of Schools Lisa Howard is expected to appear before the council in July to begin the process of moving forward with the override vote for FY26.

Several councilors questioned whether the town should be providing the schools with more money in the FY25 budget to help cover the shortfall of what the schools need to provide a level services budget.

Letterie noted that Howard and the school department have been working for months to address the budget issues for FY25 through a combination of prepaying for some of next year’s bills with money left in the FY24 budget, as well as zeroing out some school department accounts.

Letterie said that Howard has stated that while the proposed budget was not optimal, she was comfortable working with the figure for FY25 to reach the level-services budget. He noted that there are no major staff cuts that have been proposed by the schools for the 24-25 year.

But while the schools should be able to make ends meet for FY25, Letterie said that will not be the case for FY26 without an override.

“The concern is Fiscal 26, and that’s why when she comes in July, and I’m sure she will be very well prepared to give us her recommendations, we will then vote on whether to put that recommendation on a ballot or not,” said Letterie. “We won’t be amending the number at all, we will be voting on her recommendation.”

Letterie, Howard, and Town Manager Tony Marino all also noted that if there is a need for a supplemental budget request later in the fiscal year, the school department could come back to the town council to request the funding.

Howard also thanked the town administration for moving $220,000 in free cash over to the school budget to help with the shortfall.

“It doesn’t sound like a lot of money, but it pays for a couple of teachers and certainly technology, and just the increase of five percent in average increases for the school district,” said Howard.

Howard said as the the school district closes out the FY24 budget, she will have a better idea of money that is left that can be used to prepay some items for FY25.

“I have a pretty good prediction of what that is, I have purchase orders from all four schools and district-wide expenses, categorized and ready to go in order of importance,” said Howard.

She said she has also looked at the items that are acceptable to prepay for the school department.

Depending upon that final number, which Howard said should have in a day or two, the school department will be able to determine what it can prepay and further narrow the $1.4 million budget gap.

“I think it is really important to know that I feel that the school district should be opening the FY25 school year with a level-service budget,” said Howard. “However, given the situation we are in as a community, is why I strongly advise that without an override, FY26 will be devastating.”

A planned override would help the school department get out of being stuck in neutral and be able to build back what students need for an equitable education, said Howard.

Councilor-at-Large Rob DeMarco asked Howard if she was comfortable with the council passing the budget as presented by Marino.

“I am comfortable knowing that my open relationship and communication with the town manager and the school committee in terms that we are tighter than tight,” said Howard.

The superintendent said she also believes that the town council is committed to providing for the school department if it needs to come back in FY25 with a supplemental budget request to cover any unanticipated costs.

“I am comfortable with the allocation knowing that that possibility is there,” said Howard.

DeMarco noted that the town should keep all its options open when it comes to addressing the FY26 budget concerns.

“The option for 26 is an override,” said Letterie. “You can’t use one-time expenses for recurring expenses. If it doesn’t pass, then there are some really tough decisions that the superintendent has to make.”

Transcript Staff

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