Hopkinton, MA
Hopkinton, US
12:28 am, Saturday, September 23, 2023


Budget process, school proposal addressed by School Committee

by | Aug 4, 2023 | Education, Featured: Education

Overviews of the budgeting process and issues associated with the Elmwood School replacement project were among the topics at Thursday’s School Committee meeting.

Presented by Superintendent Carol Cavanaugh and Assistant Superintendents Susan Rothermich and Jeff LaBroad, the administrators took the committee step-by-step through the budget process starting in September and described other sources of funding, such as revolving funds and different types of grants.

Cavanaugh said the budget is created with “three buckets to fill”: planning for enrollment growth, meeting every student’s needs, and building a community of respect and collaboration.

She said last year’s motto of “All means all” now is “All really can mean all.”

Rothermich described the budget as “the financial expression” of the educational program and the priorities of the school district.

Salaries generally make up 80% of the operating budget, with 20% in expenses. Capital items are requests costing $25,000 or more, she explained.

The budget process is launched in September and involves principals and directors evaluating needs, beginning with a zero-based budget and “building it from the ground up with students at the center of the work,” Rothermich said.

The School Committee and administrators meet with the town manager and other town leaders to be advised by a “budget message” also in September, she said.

Other factors of the process include weekly meetings of a budget advisory group; presentations by building principals, directors and central office personnel in November and December; and in January, a public hearing and School Committee vote.

Rothermich explained that the same budget presentations are conducted numerous times (9-10 last year), which gives opportunities for the public to get involved, ask questions and receive the information they need.

She added that Hopkinton does a lot, considering per-pupil expenditures of $15,000 annually rank among the lowest in the commonwealth.

She also explained that many requests are not included in the ultimate budget. Last year, 9.5 full-time equivalent positions did not make it, totaling approximately $500,000, or nearly a 1% increase.

Cavanaugh highlighted budget changes over time corresponding to enrollment. For example, in 2020, the budget was $48 million for 3,897 kids. In 2023, the figure was $55 million for 4,206 students.

Rothermich reiterated the sentiment that a five-year capital plan must be reviewed annually because “there are always levers, and things do change.”

The superintendent presented a “stop light” analysis showing enrollment capacity within buildings to inform the Elmwood School replacement project. (Red shows out of space, yellow is tight space and use of non-traditional classrooms and green means the students can fit in the building).

She reviewed how moving certain grades would impact other buildings and free up space in some cases.

LaBroad described Every Student Succeeds Act grants as well as Title I-IV, SPED (special education), Entitlement grants and funds from other sources like nonprofits and private entities. He also outlined the process of applying for competitive grants and the follow-up requirements.

In fiscal year 2023, the town received $1.1 million in entitlement and earmarked grants, and $1.3 million is expected in FY24, he said. Hopkinton received $195,662 in competitive grants, with the number in FY24 to be determined.

Elmwood project timeline offered

Jon Graziano, chair of the Elementary School Building Committee, said the most common questions the board receives from the community involve project cost and site location.

He said the committee would receive two cost estimates from independent contractors and reconcile the figures. By Aug. 22, the committee will know the amount of Massachusetts School Building Authority reimbursement the town would receive and vote on a budget.

The School Committee is expected to take an “endorsement” vote at that same meeting, with the Select Board likely to do so a week later.

The final submission must go to the MSBA by Aug. 31.

Graziano said residents have asked why other sites like commercial buildings off South Street, the Old Liberty Mutual site and the former Center School were not chosen instead of Hayden Rowe Street for the proposed Elmwood School.

Once he explains things like the existence of wetlands, insufficient roads, the need for HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning) systems to be overhauled and the lack of windows, cafeteria and gymnasium spaces and other factors, they appear to understand, Graziano said.

He added that 44 sites were carefully studied before Hayden Rowe was chosen last year. There are no alternatives that cost less, Graziano said, keeping in mind it is a large school to accommodate 1,200 in three grades.

Graziano invited residents to attend a virtual public forum on Aug. 10 and continue to provide feedback.

School Committee member Adam Munroe noted that the town has been in this situation with enrollment growth for several years. He said the district is “high performing” despite its space limitations, and it is time to give the students “appropriate space to teach them into the future.”

There is a contingency plan in case there is even more enrollment than projected, Cavanaugh said. Graziano noted the schematic design includes room to add classrooms to the three academic wings.

Nature’s Classroom trip approved

In other business, the School Committee gave approval for the Grade 6 Nature’s Classroom trip to be held Nov. 13-17 with two groups comprised of 300 students. The students will travel to Ossipee Lake in New Hampshire and take part in hikes, team-building games, survival skills and exploration of forests, streams, beaches and other aspects of the natural world.

Hopkinton Middle School assistant principal Ann Benbenek noted that the cost of transportation had increased, resulting in a $410 rate for families to pay. She and Superintendent Carol Cavanaugh explained that financial assistance is available, as are payment plans.

Vice chair Amanda Fargiano described the program as “a great way to start the middle school experience” for students.

Liaison chosen to review bullying plan

Member Holly Morand was selected to represent the School Committee in a group reviewing the bullying/intervention plan. The group is comprised of students, teachers and administrators and will return to the School Committee next spring with a proposal.

“I can’t imagine anyone more qualified than you,” Fargiano said. Morand noted that as a social worker, she works with both bullies and the bullied, and these are the types of issues where she would like to contribute.


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