The Southborough School Committee last night voted to endorse a 3.63% increase in the school’s operating budget for next year. The budget still needs to be approved by voters at town meeting in April.
The $16.7M budget endorsed by the school committee is largely the same as the preliminary version presented to selectmen back in January. That’s to say, it proposes the reduction of 6 teaching positions along with 3.5 additional staff members.
‘A revenue problem, not a spending problem’
The two main items forcing the budget increase for next year are $552K in contractual salary increases for teachers, and the loss of about $420K in state “circuit breaker” aid for special education services.
School committee member Jack Kessler said that without the state cuts, the budget would have come in at close to the 0% requested by the Board of Selectmen.
Superintendent Charles Gobron told the committee that while many area school districts got federal stimulus money, Southborough did not because we did not meet the socio-economic qualifications. The Northborough school district received more than $200K in stimulus money.
“It’s a revenue problem, not a spending problem,” committee member Susan Dargan said. “You read blogs and people are saying schools are spending too much. I personally think that’s ridiculous.”
“If you look at how services have decreased over years, that would be more accurate picture of our spending,” Kessler said. “We’re decreasing services more than any other [town] department that I’m aware of.”
Cutting non-contractual salary increases
In addition to the $552K going to teachers, the budget includes about $50K in other salary increases. Noting that many town employees are going without raises this year, Kessler recommended that the committee eliminate that line item.
“We don’t have legal authority to do anything about [contracted salaries], but this is something have control over,” he said. “I think it would be a prudent course of action.”
Gobron said some of the $50K represents contractual increases, but said he would provide a breakdown at the next school committee meeting. Kessler abstained from the committee’s vote on the budget in the absence of a decision on non-contractual salaries.
The next school committee meeting will be held on March 10. The first part of the meeting will be a public hearing on the budget. Residents are invited to attend and give feedback.