By Meg Weston
The projected budget represents a 6.7% increase over the current FY14 budget of $34,214,568, or a difference of $2,292,291.
The budget increase request drivers include:
- increased enrollment and changing Bedford demographics;
- state and local mandates;
- expanded in-house special education program; and
- ensuring high levels of achievement for all students.
Enrollment in October 2014 is projected to be at 2,559 compared with 2,227 in 2003, an increase of over 300 students in 11 years. Superintendent Sills told the School Committee that the 2014 projection was “an educated guess,” which, given recent trends, “could climb.” Keeping class sizes reasonable has been, and will remain, a challenge. Currently, certain classes throughout the system are enrolled over Bedford’s established guideline numbers. Notably, 35 major courses are currently overenrolled at the high school. Even if with the additional staffing proposed in the budget, for FY15, BHS is still projected to have 32 classes over the class size guideline of 25.
Sills said that the complexity of student needs presents challenges to the system. For example, Bedford students speak 25 languages other than English at home and require English Learning supports in school. In addition, higher percentages of low income student, homeless, and special education students require additional programs and staff to help them meet the new nationally-mandated Common Core educational standards.
Technological needs for assisting differentiated learning and for new, mandated standardized testing formats require additional investment as well. To that end, $80,325 has been requested for iPads on carts and desktop computers. According to Superintendent Sills, “the academic success of each unique learner has become the center of our educational efforts.”
Additional budget drivers are “steps and lanes” (contractual salary increases), a new Assistant Superintendent hire, special education out-of-district placements costs, utilities (an increase of 3.15 percent for electricity), and other contract services, materials and supplies.
The School Committee and the Finance Committee were scheduled to meet on December 5 to begin discussing the FY15 school budget.