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‘Hard decisions’ ahead after presentation of school budget requests

by | Jan 9, 2019 | Education

The Hopkinton Public School district continued discussions on the FY20 budget by presenting individual department budgets during the Dec. 20 School Committee meeting.
The administration for a number of the district’s buildings laid out its budget for next year, speaking to increases that “support continuous improvement” and that “align with Hopkinton Public School’s vision and values.”

At Marathon Elementary, school officials are asking for an increase of 3 percent, or $105,000. The major drivers of the budget increase are personnel, with a request for a part-time (0.5) librarian, a part-time (0.5) adjustment counselor, and an additional kindergarten teacher.

“We are ever growing,” said Marathon principal Lauren Dubeau. “Given the increase in the number of students [over the past year], I think that [a 3 percent increase] is fabulous.”
The budget increase also includes the expansion of the arts program down to the kindergarten level.

“We are one of the only districts in the area whose visual arts programming doesn’t begin until the first grade,” said Dubeau.

Dubeau also pointed out that the budget for Marathon includes a $4,000 decrease in the supply budget.

“I think it’s important to note we really do look at everything to make sure it is necessary and not just a wish,” she said.

At Elmwood Elementary School, principal Anne Carver said that her school is asking for an additional general education paraprofessional and to increase the school librarian from part-time to full-time next school year.

“This position would be able to get into classrooms to support teachers during the school day,” Carver said of the additional general education paraprofessional.

No other additional staff will be needed at Elmwood for next year, according to Carver, as enrollment is expected to remain relatively flat.

Elmwood’s budget also includes a 0.4 percent decrease in the supply line for next year. “We were able to remain level on supplies and materials,” said Carver.

Hopkins Elementary School also based its budget on flat enrollment for next school year, according to principal Vanessa Bilello, which would maintain the current classroom size of approximately 23 students.

Bilello said that Hopkins School is requesting a part-time (0.5) library-media specialist and a full-time general education paraprofessional to help “support differentiated learning” and “enhance school safety through supervisory duties, especially at lunches” for next school year.

On the supply side, the school was able to decrease the line item by $8,000 due to getting numerous materials for consumable materials for the science labs that they have collected over the past two years.

School Committee vice chair Meena Bharath voiced concerns that the budget was based on the current year’s enrollment when the district has seen such an unprecedented student growth over the past few years.

“I hope we are well prepared for what is ahead, and not presenting what we wish will happen,” said Bharath.

Original FY20 budget projections for the district presented back in November showed a 9.9 percent ($4.5 million) increase over the current school year. Since then, the school district has been asked to review numbers to decrease the budget projections.

The budget increase also includes close to $500,000 in contractual salary increases and a transportation cost increases that are fixed costs.

When asked if those costs could be reduced for FY20, school officials responded that these numbers are based on contractual obligations and space needs.

“Unfortunately, there isn’t any wiggle room,” said director of finance Susan Rothermich.
As of the Dec. 20 meeting, the FY20 school budget was a 7.4 percent increase, which was approximately $430,000 away from the 6.5 percent the school district was tasked by the Finance Department to present.

“In the next few weeks we are going to have to make some hard decisions,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Carol Cavanaugh. “I am going to try my hardest to get us down to 6.5 before we meet [with the Finance Department] in early January, but realistically, when we think of $430,000, we have to think of personnel.”


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