By Meredith McCulloch
The School Committee and Finance Committee moved closer to a budget agreement on March 5, as the Finance Committee approved an additional $129,751 for the FY16 budget. Based on the original request that amount leaves a $121,697 shortfall. The School Committee will decide on its next step and potentially vote a final budget at their upcoming meeting Tuesday, March 10.
The new total represents a 3.6% increase over the previous year. The original guideline called for a 2.7% guideline. Increases in special education costs continue to be a major driver of the school budget. Looking back over the last ten years, the increase in student population has been 9.4% whereas the number of teachers has increased by 10.2%. Special education has increased by 70.4%.
“What concerns me,” Finance Committee member Richard Bowen said at the February 26 meeting, “is that these increases are not sustainable and at some point they have to be curbed.” He also noted that the school budget no longer includes utility costs or capital needs (which moved to other town budget lines,) and therefore the remaining budget covering salaries and expenses should be less volatile.
The Town has been struggling to fill the budget gap that resulted when the governor struck an anticipated $516,283 in impact aid from the state budget. Impact aid helps offset the cost of educating students from Hanscom Field Air force Base.
For click to view a PDF of the PowerPoint presentation for the FY16 School Committee Budget Hearing at the February meeting.