Additional enrollment cited as key factor
The Hopkinton Public Schools will be requesting a $48,059,950 budget for the FY20 school year; a budget that represents a 6.67 percent increase over FY19.
“It was really important to us to maintain the level of excellence that [Hopkinton Public Schools] have,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Carol Cavanaugh said while presenting the budget to the School Committee on Jan. 3.
For the past few months, the district and School Committee have worked together on creating a budget that met the town’s directive that all departments stay under a 6.5 percent year-over-year increase. Initial budget presentations from the district were close to a 10 percent increase based on individual department asks. Reducing the ask to a 6.5 percent increase was not an easy task, according to Cavanaugh.
“We have had some major challenges along the way including the increasing enrollment,” she said.
The current year’s school budget did not take into account close to 200 more than anticipated students that moved into the district over the past year, leaving the school officials with the predicament of having to hire numerous teachers to accommodate the increase. These unprecedented increases may continue for the district, Cavanaugh said, as since the beginning of the school year alone, 35 new students have enrolled in the district.
“The entire budget is built on the assumption that we will have an increase of 103 new students next year … and that there will be an even distribution [among grade levels] of those kids,” she said.
The enrollment increase prediction is based on New England School Development Council projections and knowledge of non-age restricted housing developments currently being built in Hopkinton.
With 81 percent of the school budget being payroll expenses, an increase in the number of students directly relates to the FY20 total budget increase.
“For every 20 new students in the district, we have to add 1.4 new teachers to teach those students,” Cavanaugh said.
Along with the increase in the number of teachers and support personnel, drivers of the budget increase also include an increase in utilities, new textbooks and materials for new social studies standards, and an unanticipated special education busing cost increase of $200,000.
“It took us by surprise,” Cavanaugh said of the special education busing increase that is still being negotiated.
Yet even with a $3 million increase in budget this year, Cavanaugh pointed out that Hopkinton’s per pupil expenditure ($14,500 in FY17) is reasonable.
“Families here are getting a lot of educational bang for their buck,” Cavanaugh said. “We do an awful lot in our classrooms for a modest per pupil expenditure.”
The School Committee had an open meeting on Jan. 10 to ask for public input on the budget certifying the budget and submitting it to the town for final approval.