Wednesday, December 2, 2015

FY17 Budget Proposal: The Cost of Maintaining an Excellent Education for All Students

The FY17 (School Year 2016-17) budget proposal I submitted to the Needham School Committee outlines the minimum resources the schools need to support the educational program for our students, one that is consistent with the District’s core values of Scholarship, Citizenship, Community, and Personal Growth.  You may view my presentation here:  FY17 Proposed Budget Presentation to the School Committee Essentially, this budget proposal is a “maintenance” plan that addresses core services without requesting any significant dollars for new programs. 

The proposed budget requests an additional 5.6% funding increase over the current fiscal year, although most of this increase is to provide for a similar level of service as we have in classrooms and schools this year. In fact, about 99% of the total $3.4 million requested proposes level service for 2016-17.  Given that the Town will have limited new revenue and escalating costs (e.g., employee health insurance) I will recommend only a small increase, under $44,000, for program development even though school leaders sought over $700,000 in enhancements and improvements.  

Several key budget “drivers” are impacting the proposed FY17 budget plan.  Among them:

•  Contractual Salary Increases  Contractual obligations for all existing employees account for $1.4 million, or about half of the total requested increase.  In order to recruit, support, and retain a talented faculty and staff, we must provide reasonable yet competitive salaries for our staff, teachers, and school leaders.

•  Enrollment and Class Size  While overall enrollment is projected to increase only slightly next year, there remains a need to ensure class sizes stay within acceptable School Committee policy guidelines.  I will propose 11.73 Full Time Equivalent (FTE) classroom teachers at the elementary, middle, and high school levels to keep class sizes steady and make up for the loss of grant funds. Hillside, for example, will require 1.5 FTE new classroom teachers just to keep up with growing enrollment there.  New high school teachers are proposed to make up for the loss of grant funding.  Additionally, nursing (high school) and guidance support (elementary) is proposed to increase to ensure an appropriate amount of service is maintained.

•  Increased Special Education Costs  Increases in the number of special education students being served, special education tuition, transportation for special education students, and other mandated costs total approximately $1.1 million of the new funds requested.

•  Other Level Services  Small increases in funding are proposed to ensure continued K-12 curriculum leadership and programs ($56,814), upgraded technology supplies and services ($72,550), and literacy, math, art, science materials and resources ($60,905) are provided.  If funded, these requests will maintain the same level of service next year to students and staff as the current school year.

Where possible, we have reallocated existing resources to meet new challenges, including a growing list of state and federal mandates.  Unfortunately, many important and worthwhile proposals suggested by school leaders—all designed to enhance and strengthen student learning—have been deferred to the future.

While the budget proposal is sensible and carefully considered, it will be a challenge to secure all the resources required to maintain existing programs, especially as the Schools and Town evaluate a variety of important educational and municipal needs. 

I am mindful that the Town Manager, School Committee, Finance Committee, or Town Meeting may have different priorities, so this plan remains a work in progress throughout the winter and early spring.  In other words, based on available resources and in close collaboration with Town boards, various line items in the proposal may be changed, increased, or deferred for another time.

The School Committee welcomes input and suggestions about the budget plan and encourages parents and community members to email them with comments at and attend or tune in to upcoming meetings.  The School Committee will study and discuss the budget proposal throughout December and January, and they will hold a formal public hearing on the budget at Broadmeadow on Tuesday, January 19th at 7:00 p.m.  Please also refer to the District’s website for additional information about the budget proposal:  FY17 Budget Documents

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