During a meeting in which selectmen were cutting town budgets left and right, Selectwoman Bonnie Phaneuf expressed frustration over the state of the school budget, which currently proposes a 3.63% increase over last year.
“Town employees have given up a lot in the past couple of years,” she said. “The school department has not stepped forward with their personnel.”
Phaneuf said town employees will forgo raises this year. In contrast, the school budget includes an additional $550K for contractually-obligated teacher salary increases. Those salary increases are one of the main drivers for the overall increase in the school budget.
Phaneuf also noted that as of this year town employees started picking up 25% of their health care costs — up from 20% two years ago. The shift was expected to save the town about $100K. Last year teachers declined to increase their contribution to health care costs from 20% to 25% to match that of town employees.
As it stands, the preliminary school budget would cut six teaching positions along with 3.5 staff and support positions. Parents have expressed concern over the impact teacher layoffs would have on class sizes.
“If classroom sizes go up, it’s because someone refused to give something up,” Phaneuf said. “They haven’t demonstrated to me that they’re willing to give something up.”
The school committee is expected to vote on their budget tomorrow night.