Superintendent Charles Gobron unveiled preliminary fiscal year 2014 budget numbers for the Southborough K-8 schools last night. The early numbers have the schools coming in at about $17.6M, a 4.06% increase over the current fiscal year. Even with the increase, Gobron said the schools are not getting everything they had hoped for, and may be required to make difficult cuts.
Gobron told the K-8 School Committee the preliminary budget includes $200K in cuts to staff, an amount equivalent to four full-time positions. Gobron said they have not yet identified which positions would be cut, but said some of the savings may come from eliminating or reducing part-time positions as opposed to full-time teachers.
The cuts are necessary in part due to an unexpected increase in mandatory special education services totaling $537K, Gobron said.
While last year the district saw a significant savings after several special education students aged out of the system, School Committee member Marybeth Strickland said the district saw the opposite this year as new students requiring special services moved into the district. Limited state funding for the mandated services puts the schools “between a rock and a hard place,” she said.
“We can work very hard to control the budget, but these are mandatory obligations we have toward these children,” Strickland said. “It’s a difficult budget situation we’re presented with.”
Gobron said another line item driving up the budget are contractually-obligated salary increases totaling $410K.
Despite the budget’s $690K increase over the current year, Gobron said it still does not include many items he had hoped to fund this year, including a K-5 math specialist, non-instructional support at Trottier, and additional administrative support at Finn and Woodward.
Another area the preliminary budget does not fully fund is technology, Gobron said, meaning the district will be “unable to move at the pace we had hoped.” While the budget includes $31K for technology maintenance and a new shared network administrator, Director of Technology Jean Tower said it does not do as much as she had hoped in improving staffing, network speeds, and access to digital devices.
Gobron stressed the numbers in the preliminary budget are still “fluid.” He plans to present a more nailed-down version of the budget at the School Committee’s February meeting.