School Committee sends budget to town

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The Hopkinton School Committee certified the FY20 School Budget during its Jan. 17 meeting, sending the $48,059,950 budget to the town for final approval.
Next year’s budget represents a $3,003,300 increase — 6.67 percent — over FY19.

“It was really important to us to maintain the level of excellence that [Hopkinton Public Schools] have,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Carol Cavanaugh during a budget presentation in December. “We have had some major challenges along the way including the increasing enrollment.”

The district has seen unprecedented increases in enrollment over the past few years, with close to 200 more than anticipated students coming into the district this school year alone. Increases in enrollment have meant increases in staffing and other student services that are major drivers for the budget increases. This year’s budget was based on an increase of 103 students, a number that was developed based on past history and real estate data in town.

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 bussing cost increase of $200,000.

“Some of these are costs that come at us that are beyond our control,” School Committee chair Nancy Cavanaugh said about some of the unanticipated special education transportation costs for next year. “It’s our legal, ethical, and moral obligation to provide for our students.”

Before the vote, several School Committee members voiced their approval over this year’s budget process and gave kudos to the administration for making some “hard choices.”

“I am appreciative of the fact that you are taking into consideration the growth, student’s needs and interests, performance measures, and staff needs,” said vice chair Meena Bharath, “The entire admin team has worked collaboratively to find efficiencies and better alignment.”

With a directive from the town of keeping the budget increase under 6.5 percent, the district has had to make some adjustments and cuts to its original proposal of an over 9 percent increase.

“Each member did their best to keep up with our vision … while being mindful of the parameters provided by the selectmen,” Bharath said.

Along with staffing increases to support an increase in enrollment, this year’s budget will also help a number of initiatives take shape, according to school officials, including a more robust 18-to-22-year-old special education program, stronger programs for differentiated learning, and a revamping of the district’s website.

“I am so thankful to our taxpayers for funding this for the kids, this is the future that we are investing in,” Bharath said.

The School Committee voted unanimously to approve the FY20 budget and submit it to the town manager. The town manager will then submit a draft of the full town FY20 budget and capital plan to the Board of Selectmen at the end of January. The budgets will be voted on during the Town Meeting in the spring.