HPS settles on 9 percent increase for budget

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The Hopkinton Public Schools put the finishing touches on a $52.4 million preliminary FY21 budget.

The budget, which is a $4,324,871 — or 9 percent — increase over FY20, was presented by superintendent of schools Dr. Carol Cavanaugh and director of finance Susan Rothermich at the Jan. 2 School Committee meeting.

“This budget was built to provide a level service for Hopkinton’s exceptional academic and extracurricular programs,” Cavanaugh said. “What we have in the budget will make sure the kids are getting what they are getting today.”

The budget has been a topic of conversation over the past few months, with school officials warning that they would need to exceed the town’s guidance of less than a 5.4 percent increase.

“Just to be able to fulfill our contractual obligations is 4.7 [percent],” said Rothermich. “The needs of the schools are substantially greater than that.”

With the increased enrollment over the past few years (close to 400 additional students since the 2015-16 school year), the district was faced this year with increased transportation needs, additional social emotional learning program needs, and staff needs to fill the 14 new classrooms that were approved at the Special Town Meeting in December.

Because staffing is 80 percent of the school district’s budget, the salary increase alone for FY21 is $3,649,793, or 7.6 percent. The other 20 percent of the budget is the expenses, which are proposed to increase by $675,078, or 1.4 percent, and includes increases to transportation contracts, out of district tuitions, and buildings and grounds contracts.

“We are trying to keep pace with the growth,” Cavanaugh said.

The district is planning to add 13.5 full time equivalent (FTE) classroom teachers, 8.6 staff in the Student Services Department, 1.5 staff to administration, 1.2 members to the social emotional learning department, four support staff, three staff to Buildings and Grounds, and one to the Technology Department, in addition to the staff that were approved this year due to the unplanned increase in student enrollment.

Although the $52,370,718 included numerous additional staff members, the question still was raised if it was enough.

“I felt you have gone through the process and made the best proposal possible,” commented School Committee chair Meena Bharath, who asked the administration if the teachers were involved in the budget process. Cavanaugh answered that along with the building principals, the student councils and subject matter leaders were involved in creating the budget.

“We are where we are because we have made some thoughtful choices, but in our heart of hearts we feel that this is what is right for the students,” she said.

The budget was to be presented at a public hearing on Jan. 9. From there, it will be presented to the Finance Department and Select Board before the Annual Town Meeting in the spring.

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