School committee gets a peek at FY2010 budget

“It’s a very prudent budget.” That’s what Secretary Paul Gaffney had to say about the preliminary numbers presented by Superintendent Charles Gobron at last night’s Southborough School Committee meeting.

Below level service
Earlier this year, the Board of Selectmen asked Southborough departments to submit level-service budgets. Level service doesn’t mean a 0% increase, it means providing the same level of service currently provided. Because costs increase, it may cost more to provide the same level of service next year. Such is the case with the Southborough school budget.

The preliminary budget for FY2010 represents a 3.84% increase over FY2009, but is “well below” level services, said Gobron. There were a number of increases in the budget, including contractual salary increases for teachers, and funding for a facilities manager, professional development, and special education transportation.

To offset the increases, Gobron proposed a number of decreases in the areas of administrative, instructional, maintenance, and supply accounts, and new initiatives like programs for those learning English as a second language and expanded electives for middle school students have been postponed.

Gobron also proposed an increase in the cost of full-day Kindergarten from the current $2,000 per year to $2,500.

The preliminary budget for FY2010 is almost $16.4 million, compared to the current budget of $15.8 million. It does not include capital requests like technology and maintenance projects.

No staff reductions
The proposed budget does not include any staff reductions, but if the school district is called upon to reduce the budget further, it could affect personnel.

The town doesn’t yet know how much it will receive in local aid from the state. That combined with other unknown revenue factors means the town doesn’t know exactly how much money it has to spend next year, whcih means the proposed 3.84% increase in the school budget may or may not work.

Gobron says the district will do what it can to avoide an override vote at Town Meeting, and effort he calls a “no brainer” in this economic climate.

Gaffney praised Gobron for his work on the budget. “We’re starting with a realistic budget. It’s not level service, we’ll provide a little less next year, but I think that’s appropriate.”

Next steps
Gobron meets with the Board of Selectmen in early January, at which point the town should have a better sense of its revenue for the year. He will present a final recommended budget to the school committee at their next meeting on January 14.

Once the school committee approves the budget, we get the chance to ask questions and vote on it at Town Meeting.

Gobron will present the regional school budget at next week’s Northborough-Southborough Regional School Committee meeting.

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