School Board Supports 3.07% Increase
The vote came after Wednesday night's school budget public hearing.
The Westborough School Committee voted Wednesday night to seek a 3.07 percent budget increase next year, which is less than the 3.67 percent initially recommended by Superintendent Marianne O'Connor.
The $42,694,208 request does not include a new school transportation fee.
However, some school board members said the fee of $200 per student, with a $500 family cap, remains an option if voters don't approve the school budget at the March 16 annual town meeting. The fee would apply to students in grades seven to 12, and students in Kindergarten to grade six residing within two miles of their school. School officials say such a fee potentially could generate $240,000 for the schools.
The board voted after its budget public hearing, which included a presentation by O'Connor, as well as comments from several residents.
"We started with a very flat budget that would add just .6 positions and that's a 3.67 percent increase in our total budget," member Jody Hensley said.
"We looked at a 2.5 percent budget that asked us for $240,000 to come from our parents for bus fees. But there are many downsides to that, a policy change that could cost us in other ways. What we're looking at tonight is a compromise."
O’Connor highlighted the school district’s achievements (“I am so proud of this school system and the work that people do here”), cost-saving measures, budget drivers, recent state and federal funding history, and new unfunded mandates.
“This one has been a really tough budget to put together,” O’Connor said.
“Primarily because we have been shaving and shaving and shaving. And I feel really strongly that what the administrators and the work that we’ve done have really demonstrated some considerable changes in what could potentially be the Westborough public schools.”
O’Connor said 91 percent of the budget comes from “three large categories that we have little control over”: salaries, transportation and special education tuition. She presented this as a pie chart to show “what little we have to work with.”
“We’ve taken so much out of the school budget in the last five years in supplies and materials that the only next step is reducing additional personnel and programs,” she said.
Westborough’s state and federal grant amount has dropped from $2,463,667 in fiscal year 2009 to $1,214,384 during this fiscal year, O’Connor said.
O’Connor presented the school board Wednesday night with a list, in no particular order, of potential reductions if funds are needed and a school transportation fee isn’t implemented.
The list includes such cuts as math support at the Mill Pond School; a psychologist; eliminating a sports team; and late buses.
Westborough Patch will have more on the school budget later today.
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