Good news (finally!) on school budgets, along with some words of caution

by susan on March 11, 2010

There hasn’t been much good news on the budget front this year, but School Superintendent Charles Gobron got to share some last night. Gobron told the school committee that thanks to additional cuts, cooperation from teachers, and some help from Uncle Sam, the school was able to trim their budget by an additional $350K.

The biggest chunk of assistance came in the form of an unexpected $150K in stimulus money from the federal government that will help offset the loss of $450K in state circuit breaker reimbursement for special education services.

In addition, the Southborough Teachers Association voted unanimously to take a furlough day next year in lieu of a professional development day. That move will save the district $80K in salaries and professional development costs.

Katherine Howard, president of the teachers association told the school committee that teachers did what was in the best interest of the students by voting “without hesitation to give back.”

Teachers weren’t the only ones making sacrifices. Principals and office staff members will go without raises next year, like their municipal employee counterparts. That will save the district about $25K.

Other savings came from a renegotiated school bus contract — a $43K savings — and small cuts to a number of other accounts.

All told, the reductions bring the budget down from a 3.63% increase over last year to a 1.65% increase. If you take away the $450K state cut to special education reimbursement, the budget is actually lower than last year’s by 1.19%.

The budget still calls for the reduction of six teachers along with about 3-1/2 full-time support positions.

There was praise all around for the efforts of the school administration and teachers to reduce the budget, but officials stressed that it still all comes down to town meeting.

“The fight’s not over,” School Committee vice-chair Marybeth Strickland said. “We’re not out of the woods.”

“It’s a big help, but I don’t want anyone to leave here thinking it’s problem solved,” Advisory Committee member John Butler sad. “Don’t cancel your babysitter for town meeting.”

Butler said it’s likely the town will be able to figure out a way to close the remaining budget gap, but how that happens is still up in the air. Whether it’s through additional cuts, increased taxes, or the use of one-time funds, will be the decision of town meeting voters.

School committee members also painted a bleak picture for next year’s school budget. Since much of the cost reductions this year are through one-time funds like the federal stimulus money, the district won’t be able to rely on them in fiscal year 2012.

Said School Committee member Jack Kessler, “There’s no reason to believe next year will be better.”

1 Marnie Hoolahan March 11, 2010 at 6:26 PM

Thanks for posting this Susan! I think that this is a great step towards resolution. I would also include that the school technology group agreed to slash their budget from $130K to $90K, a 30% decrease and further illustrates the willingness of the broader efforts to come to a point where the Town of Southborough could support. I do hope that the Advisory Committee and the Selectmen look at the efforts made to preserve the school’s education integrity (vis a vie no additional headcount reductions) and take the significant efforts taken into consideration. Dr. Gobron made a compelling point – had the circuit breaker funding from the state held constant over last year, the school committee comes in at a -1.9% budget decrease over previous year.

I applaud the efforts of the school committe, the willingness of the teachers’ association to concede on something and the result. I would encourage the Advisory Committe and Selectmen to support this recommendation.

2 John Kendall March 13, 2010 at 10:48 AM

Katherine Howard, president of the teachers association told the school committee that teachers did what was in the best interest of the students by voting “without hesitation to give back.”

Every other group in town including the retirees have stepped up and now pay 25% of health insurance. The only group who has NOT is the teachers. They still pay only 20%. Ms. Howard and the teacher’s union really need to put their money where their mouth is. The Firefighters, Police, DPW…..and the retirees without any say, have worked with the town on the health insurance issues. The teachers really need to join the crowd to show real budget savings.

3 Sue Grinblatas March 15, 2010 at 5:42 PM

Good point, John

4 John Kendall March 15, 2010 at 8:33 AM

Wow…….we beat up on the Police Department, but nobody questions the teachers……AMAZING

5 Anna March 15, 2010 at 5:53 PM

Point well taken!! ALL of those percentages for health care contribution are incredibly low, but 20%?!!?!! It looks like the next round of contract talks will be interesting. Their way of giving back was to take a day off instead of training. I thought that we wanted teachers to be skilled? I guess we should take what we can get? Maybe I was expecting that they would give back a percentage of the contacted pay increase instead.

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