The proposal by School Superintendent Charles Gobron to cut nine or ten staff members next year has prompted quite a response from all of you. For those not caught up on the discussion, you can read it here.
The school committee met last night to discuss the budget for what committee member Jack Kessler said “is probably the most devastating budget year in the history of the school.”
Gobron told school committee members, along with a larger-than-normal audience of parents and teachers assembled to hear the discussion, that Southborough schools are in dire straights largely because of state cuts to mandated special education services in the amount of almost $500K.
Here are some salient points from last night’s discussion.
Layoffs would include teachers, custodians, and aides
Gobron gave more specifics about the nine to ten positions that would be cut next year under the proposed budget. Six would be classroom teachers distributed across the four schools. On top of that, the town would lose one custodian, one tutor, and 1.55 specialists.
More teacher cuts could be coming
The preliminary budget represents a 3.63% increase over the current year’s budget, but the selectmen have asked all departments – including the schools – to submit at the very least a 0% increase budget. To do that, school committee member Marybeth Strickland said the schools would have to cut an additional almost $600K. And that could mean another nine or ten teachers would have to go.
“Our budget is 80% personnel,” Strickland said. “We can only cut so much in textbooks and paper.”
Community groups will have to pay to use the schools after hours
The proposed budget cuts one full-time custodian plus the equivalent of another full-time position in contracted custodial services. Gobron said that means community groups will no longer be able to use the schools after hours for free. The groups would have to pay for custodial services, which is not something they do now.
Tom Finelli, president of Southborough Youth Basketball, said paying for custodial services would mean a 50-90% increase in fees for the 450 families that participate in the league. Finelli said the group uses the gyms at all four schools every night during their season.
Talks with the teachers union underway
Southborough teachers are in the final year of a three-year contract, a contract that promises $552K in raises next year. Aside from special education costs, it’s the single biggest budget increase for next year.
Gobron said they are currently in talks with the teachers union about the budget, but couldn’t provide any more detail because negotiations are ongoing. “The Southborough Teachers Association has been a very active and a wonderful partner to us,” Gobron said. “They want to be part of the solution.”
School committee to approve budget next month
The school committee will vote on the budget at their meeting in February. From there it’s up to voters at town meeting in April.
There is a path through this labyrinth that will provide the resources required (see my comments in the other discussion). However, the K-8 School Committee is not going to get there meeting once a month. The Advisory Committee and the Selectmen will meet once a week, at a minimum, during the budget season. The K-8 school budget is the largest budget in our system (larger than the money controlled by the Selectmen).
why don’t the teachers forgo their pay raises, then maybe we wouldn’t need so many layoffs.