At the request of town officials, Superintendent Charles Gobron this week outlined how a 1% budget cut would impact Southborough schools. In a presentation to the K-8 School Committee, Gobron said the reduction could mean the loss of as many as 11 teaching positions.
In his presentation, Gobron acknowledged the “real fiscal constraints” facing the town. “The schools realize everything we want to have is not possible,” he said.
Last year voters approved a K-8 budget that was a 2% increase over the previous year. Assuming operational costs increase at a similar rate this year, and factoring in a 1% across-the-board cut, Gobron said the school system would have to eliminate more than $500K from its budget, or the equivalent of about ten teachers.
The district also faces the loss of more than $200K in federal stimulus money that currently funds one special education teacher and five support positions. Gobron said he is hopeful some or all of the one-time money would be covered by an anticipated increase in state circuit breaker funding, but he said it was too soon to know for sure.
Gobron told the school committee his calculations represent a “worst-case scenario,” and that if teaching positions were lost, they would not necessarily be classroom teachers.
“We can look to cut pencils and books, but we would need to cut a lot of pencils to cut ($500K) from our budget,” School Committee Chairperson Marybeth Strickland said. “We’re predominately a resource-based budget.”
School committee members said eliminating teachers would increase class sizes and threaten programming like art and physical education. It would also be a morale hit, they said.
“Teachers find it difficult to work in an environment where the community doesn’t support education,” School Committee member Susan Dargan said.
The Advisory Committee and Board of Selectmen asked all town departments, including the schools, to prepare a -1% budget, a level that approximates no increase for taxpayers.
“It doesn’t mean (the 1% reduced budget) is the budget you’re going to end up with,” Advisory Committee member John Butler told the school committee last month. “We are asking you to tell us what the impact would be.”
A preliminary budget will be presented at next month’s school committee meeting. A public hearing on the budget is scheduled for March.