It wasn’t the $2M in cuts the selectmen had asked for, but the K-8 School Committee last night approved a budget that was $420K lower than what they requested earlier in the budget season.
“We’re trying to listen to the town and their needs,” Gobron said of the latest budget. “We’re also listening to the students and their needs, and trying to find a balance.”
The $16.7M operating budget approved by the school committee last night represents a 2.01% increase over last year’s budget. The schools will also ask for an additional $107K to fund technology, but it has not been determined whether that will be added to the operational budget or handled as a separate warrant article.
A new contract for teachers has not yet been ratified, but Gobron said he does not expect any increases or decreases to the budget as a result of the contract.
While Gobron said most of the $420K in reductions come from lower than expected personnel costs, the latest budget does not call for any current teaching positions to be eliminated.
Back in January the school committee voted to add $50K to the then $17.1M budget to restore one of the teaching positions eliminated last year. The revised budget approved last night eliminated funding for that position.
Gobron said an unexpectedly high number of retirements, resignations, and leaves of absence allowed them to trim $161K from various salary accounts. The savings comes as higher-paid senior staff members leave and are replaced by lower-paid junior members.
One of those retiring will be Finn principal Mary Ryan (more on that in a post later today). Instead of replacing her with another full-time principal, Gobron said Woodward principal James Randell will become principal of both schools next year, which will save the district $89K.
The latest budget also cut $119K in special education services which Gobron said they were able to do because of “shifting student needs.”
Selectman Bill Boland, who attended the meeting last night, said the reductions were a step in the right direction. “We have more work to do to balance the budget, but thank you for your efforts,” he said.
Gobron said the schools are still feeling the effects of cuts made last year when the state eliminated $450K in special education funding, which forced the district to cut six teaching positions.
“I think everybody needs to understand the bare bones situation we’re in,” School Committee member Kathleen Harragan Polutchko said. “If you ask us for any more cuts, it really is going to have to come out of personnel, and I just think that is not where we want to go.”