School Committee Discusses Budget Reduction; ‘Zoom Bombing’ Cuts Meeting Short

At the June 5 School Committee meeting, Superintendent Jon Sills, joined by Business Director Julie Kirrane, outlined budget reductions that the district will likely have to face in the FY21 School Budget due to a revenue shortfall at the state level.

In previous weeks, Sills and Kirrane addressed the expected deficit, but the plan put forward by the district leadership at the June 5 meeting was the first to include clear line-item eliminations.

While expecting savings from the loss of education during the current school year, Sills projects that these estimated savings of $200,000 will be used to accommodate the increased need for long-term substitutes because of possible increased illness/absence among the teaching staff in the 2020-2021 school year.

The district identified $269,858 of cuts in Professional Development, Supplies, and Materials. These cuts include using iPads for the fourth year of service, a 10 percent reduction in supplies and materials, a 20 percent reduction of textbook replacement costs, eliminating the proposed expansion of IT and Facility contracted services and reduction in district-wide professional development. The cuts also extend to the athletic department where the district will eliminate the proposed JV Hockey expansion, eliminate uniform replacement, and reduce athletic equipment replacement. The district also anticipates an additional $13,404 to complete the bi-annual Youth Risk Survey; this cost was accounted for through these cuts.

Sills and Kirrane also recognized $152,286 in non-FTE salaries. The proposed cuts would eliminate expansion in assistant principal summer days, the proposed JV Hockey expansion (coaching), summer IT interns, mentor, and new teacher stipends, reduction of extracurricular activities to 80 percent, while suspending others, and suspension of curriculum stipends at JGMS, Davis, and Lane.

The cuts continued as the district identified $169,586 in reductions through eliminating an English teacher, a Grade 3 world language teacher, the gifted and talented teacher, and an instructional coach.

School Committee Member Dan Brosgol raised his concerns about the elimination of teachers as he cited his belief that teachers were above everything else in the budget. Fellow School Committee Member Brad Morrison echoed similar discontent with cutting teaching at the grade 3 level; this grade will be the largest class in Bedford during the 2020-2021 year. Sarah Scoville, the Committee’s Vice-Chairperson, and Brosgol also cited their experience as parents of rising third graders to advocate against the proposed cuts.

However, in addition to teachers, paraprofessionals were also the target of cuts that equaled a net-savings of $200,154. The proposed cuts would reduce library EA positions, a teaching assistant in the High School’s academic achievement center, 5-day substitute positions, two behavior technician teacher assistants, and a proposed expansion for a grade 3 teaching assistant.

Brosgol was also hesitant about not expanding the grade 3 teaching assistant position, on the grounds that it will most likely be a long day in the classroom because of policy effects to mitigate student exposure to Covid-19.

The identified savings in salary administration include eliminating the proposed preschool administrative assistant, a zero percent cost of living adjustment (COLA) for non-contracted personnel, and reducing a computer lab assistant. These reductions will save the district $112,341. Sills and Kirrane also proposed eliminating the proposed expansion of a floater custodian for a savings of $24,527.

However, despite these cuts, the district needs an additional $221,079 in savings due to the loss of Student Opportunity Act (SOA) funding, loss of building rent, and additional legal services costs due to the impacts of the closure.

With the proposed expenses and costs, the district will save $707,653, thus meeting the identified threshold of eliminations.

The School Committee was unable to discuss the EDCO collaborative and hear Sills’ Superintendent Report due to deliberate electronic interruptions of the meeting. The School Committee convened into Executive Session and will reconvene on June 9 to discuss and vote on the proposed budget discussions.

 

 


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