How Southborough Schools are cutting the proposed FY21 budget (Updated)

On Friday, I shared that Southborough’s revised FY21 budget is looking much better, in large part to cuts being made to school budgets. $421,594 was cut from the budget proposed for Southborough Public Schools.

To clarify, that doesn’t mean that the budget will be lower than this year’s. The cuts were made to cap the K-8 budget at 2% over last year. Previously, it was over 4%.

The revised budget was approved at last week’s Southborough School Committee Meeting. Before the vote, Superintendent Greg Martineau explained to the committee what cuts/decisions would enable them to reduce their ask of Annual Town Meeting voters.

$68,636 of the reduction is possible due to money available in this year’s budget to prepay a portion of the FY21 out-of-district and collaborative tuitions*.

Close to half of the reductions came from the decision to cut 2.0 FTE educator positions. According to Martineau, the specific positions haven’t been identified yet. The schools had some “unanticipated staffing shifts and moves” through attritions and changes since the last budget vote. The administration is trying to leverage that to minimize impacts of reductions.

The previous version of the budget, already included cutting 2 full time employee Educational Support Professionals and 1.5 FTE positions for educators. The new budget ups the total FTE cuts to 7, with 5 of them educators.

To minimize staffing cuts, the leadership team prioritized line item cuts. Principals and Directors reduced expenses by $145,275. Those consisted of deferring purchases of technology, classroom textbooks and materials, general supplies, and library materials.

Martineau chose not to eliminate any programs. He opined that once programs are cut, they’re almost impossible to bring back.

Asked about the impact of employee cuts, Martineau acknowledged that even if some class sizes just increase by 2-3 students, it’s an impact on teachers. He also followed that any FTE cut is a loss to their organization:

These are people behind these positions who we’ve invested a lot of time and resources, whether it’s professional learning or having staffing understand how school works. When we lose employees, we lose that as well.

The presentation was rolled up to the district level and didn’t specify cuts by individual schools.

Asked about the Regional School Committee budget, the Superintendent said it had yet to be voted on. He noted that Town Administrator Mark Purple had exempted the Regional Committee from the exercise of lowering the budget, but that Northborough hadn’t given them that option. That committee is set to vote this Wednesday.

*Updated (5/20/20 6:54 am): This morning, I second guessed myself on some of the detail I originally shared about the $68,636 in savings. I stripped that out while I wait for confirmation/clarification from the school’s Finance Director.

Updated (5/20/20 8:10 am): Initially, I misunderstood and misreported the $68K as savings in out of district student placements during the pandemic. This morning, Martineau clarified:

As part of state funding, the District receives Circuit Breaker (CB) funding to off-set out-of-district (OOD) student placements.  The District can use the CB funding over two years.  At year-end, we anticipate having $68,000 in CB funds to apply to FY21 (Year 2), which is a result of shifting student placements, etc.  The District has not gained any savings in OOD student placements as a result of the closure.  This is governed by the State, and I’m not anticipating any returned funding. 

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