By Mitch Evans
The Finance Committee approved a budget of $36,596,579 for the Bedford Public Schools for fiscal year 2016 at their meeting on February 24. This represents a 4.25% increase over last year and a slight decrease in the initial budget proposal for FY16 of $36,890,178, put forward by Superintendent Jon Sills on December 2, 2014.
It is important to note that this total does not include the $516,000 “impact aid” that helps to offset the costs borne by the town of Bedford for educating the students of military families at Hanscom Field. This reimbursement normally comes one year ahead of when it is used. However, FY16 money—to have been received in 2015— has been eliminated in state budget cuts.
The Town of Bedford has been educating the high school students who reside on Hanscom Air Force Base since the 1950s when the Bedford schools were constructed with Federal funding (Federal School Construction Assistance Program of Public Law 81-815). The difficulty is that the school system is responsible for educating students from military families, but receives no taxes from the facilities, hence the need for this additional reimbursement funding. Click to read Superintendent Sills’ letter to Governor Baker. State legislators will put forward these costs in their budget in April 2015 and Sills now feels optimistic that a request for this outstanding funding will be included in their presentation.
In summary, the key school budget drivers as presented by Sills include :
- Enrollment (currently stands at 2,522 students and is forecast to increase by one class size in 2015/16)
- An increase in students’ social and emotional needs (a full time adjustment counselor at Davis and an increase in the working hours of counselors at BHS)
- In-house special education program expansion ( in accordance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, schools are required to provide a free appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment that is appropriate to the individual student’s needs)
- Programmatic, academic and accountability needs (including instructional technology improvements and the purchase of more hand-held devices in preparation for PARCC testing)
Two Davis school projects were among other town wide plans postponed until FY17 in order to save money in the capital expenditures budget. This was necessary to accommodate the shortfall in the Hanscom funding and the increase in snow removal costs (estimated at $8,000 per inch of snow). However, a request was made by Superintendent Sills that these school projects be revisited should the town’s funding situation change in the future.
To see a full copy of the school district budget presentation visit https://www.bedford.k12.ma.us/school-committee/budget.html or the BedfordPublicSchoolsFY16BudgetNewsletter.