Schools to seek $2.9 million increase in funding

by Frank Schroth

The School Committee voted unanimously to put forward a FY14 budget that will meet increases in mandated costs and provide for funds to be targeted at early literacy achievement, closing proficiency gaps, and advancing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) initiatives. Those last 3 initiatives comprise what the administration is referring to as the advancement budget. The budget request represents a $2,967,336 increase over the FY13 budget.

The FY13 budget number requested of the town was$35.4 million. The FY14 is $38.4 million. The nearly $3 mill difference is due to contractual obligations of ~$1.2 million. These include covering retirements costs ($33.6K), legal ($34.5K), transportation for regular and spec needs students who need to go out of district ($150K), costs to meet needs of SPED students ($776K) and increases in facilities costs ($212). In presenting these numbers the administration made a couple of notes. Special Education costs while high are not as high as they could be due to a relationship with the New England Center for Children which partners with the schools to deliver instruction to special needs students enablling them to remain in the Milton schools rather than being sent out of district. The administration wants to add a second NECC special needs class. The estimate is that this saves the schools ~$600K (more if you factor in transportation costs) should those students be sent out of district. There is an increase in energy costs. The administration took a conservative approach to this, noting that savings that may be realized from an off site solar array have not been factored in.

Chair Pavlicek summed it up as follows: there are mandated costs of $1.2 million for special needs (students served in district and out), $1.2 million for everything else (facilities, retirement,  energy increases etc) and $500K for the advancement budget. Member Walker said, “We have done as much as we can.” He also added that cuts made in previous budgets to technology and curriculum materials had “come back to haunt us.” He characterized the budget as one that is data driven and will advance the agenda of the schools to meet the academic needs of all students. The committee, particularly Mr. Walker, have voiced concerns over the achievement gap that exists among students, especially African-American students. The advancement budget is intended to, among other things, close that gap. The previously referenced initiatives covered in the advancement budget are based on research and contain metrics for gauging success. Gormley said the public would find the presentation on the school’s web site shortly.

The administration had outlined the advancement budget in detail at their previous session (see post here). Two additional notes: the entire budget for the schools is $45.4 million. $7 million is covered by outside funding (e.g. Lunch, athletic fees, Title 1 &2, rental chargebacks etc). $38.4 is what is paid for by the town. If the schools are required to live with a level funded budget the administration estimates that will require cutting 43 employees from the system. The Warrant Committee has requested level funded budgets from all town departments. Superintendent Gormley will present the cuts to accommodate that budget at the next school committee meeting.

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