I did a bit of meeting-hopping last night. First it was the K-8 School Committee meeting where members unanimously voted to add $50K to the proposed $17M K-8 budget in the hopes of restoring one of the teaching positions lost last year.
The initial budget Superintendent Charles Gobron presented last night did not call for restoring any of the positions, but the school committee voted to move more aggressively to combat concerns about class size.
“I don’t see things getting that much better next year. We’re looking at two to three years of not getting those teachers back. Why not this year?” committee member Kathleen Polutchko said. “If we go into town meeting assuming we’re not going to restore teaching positions, then when are we going to do it?”
Next it was on to the Board of Selectmen who, along with the Advisory Committee, heard from Finance Director Brian Ballantine that the town is $1.1M short on its budget for next year. “That’s $1.1M that departments have asked for that we don’t have,” Ballantine said.
The town will need to trim the excess to achieve a balanced budget, but that would still mean a property tax increase for next year. If town meeting voters wanted to avoid a property tax increase, a total of $2.5M would need to be trimmed from the current requests.
Most departments have submitted a level-services budget for next year, so cuts would represent a reduction or elimination of current services provided by the town.
“If I was in private business, I would be concerned about the viability of the business,” Selectman John Rooney said of the budget situation.
The town could choose to use all or a portion of the $1.3M that was released after pending telecommunications lawsuits were settled earlier this year, but Ballantine warned that using one-time money to offset the operational deficit would create an “insurmountable issue next year.”
“For the last three years this board has recognized that the well was getting dry. Now we’re there,” Selectwoman Bonnie Phaneuf said.
The K-8 School Committee, Board of Selectmen, and Advisory Committee plan to meet jointly next week to review the school budget. The schools — including K-8, Algonquin, and Assabet — make up more than 65% of Southborough’s total budget.
You can read a more detailed account of both the School Committee and the Board of Selectmen meeting in the Metrowest Daily News.