School bus. PHOTO BY JOYCE PELLINO CRANE

Superintendent Proposes First Set of Cuts to Fiscal 2019 Budget

Subscribe to our free, daily publication for all your Westford news.

Superintendent Everett V. Olsen, on Dec. 5, recommended slashing $640K in his first set of proposed cuts for the fiscal 2019 school budget. A second set of proposed cuts followed on Dec. 15  for a combined total of $1.3 million.

The following memo, dated Nov. 30, was sent to members of the School Committee.

“On Monday evening, we will continue our discussion of the 2018-2019 School Department budget. (Director of School Finance) Kathy (Auth), (Assistant Superintendent) Kerry (Clery) and I will be glad to address any questions you may have regarding staffing, programs, and services. At this time, I am prepared to present to you several recommendations for reducing my budget as we face the reality of a $1.3 million reduction to meet the Town Manager’s suggested school system appropriation.

The reductions are as follows:
1. Reducing the Long-Term Substitute Teacher Account – $100,000
The fiscal 2018 budget for LT Substitutes is $325,000. This account was adjusted to this level in fiscal 2015 because of the increasing number of paid leaves of absence that we were covering. The annual expenditure for LT substitutes has now dropped slightly, to an average of $207,000 for fiscal 2016 and fiscal 2017, and we feel that it is reasonable to reduce the LT Substitute budget by $100,000 to $225,000 for fiscal 2019 to take this into consideration. Since the need for leaves of absence can be somewhat cyclical in nature, it is possible that we may need to adjust this budget line again in a future year.

2. Prepay up to three months of next year’s tuition account obligation – $370,000
The law allows school systems to prepay (from prior year’s funds) up to three-months of the expected tuition cost for special education outside placements. It will be essential for me to manage our school system spending for the remainder of this fiscal year so that we have the ability to make this important offset to next year’s budget. Over the last five years the respective amounts of tuition that we have prepaid are listed below: fiscal 2017 $304,512, fiscal 2016 $463,481, fiscal 2015 $338,848, fiscal 2014 $337,721, fiscal 2013 $154,006.

3. Curriculum Budget Reductions – $70,000

In the budget Appendix, Kerry has included a list of the curriculum budget modifications for fiscal 2019.

4. Increase our Transportation Fee from $225 to $275 with an increase to – $100,000
the family cap from $600 to $750.

This will be our first bus fee increase in the last eight years (2010-2019 school year). The per vehicle/per day cost in fiscal 2010 was $258. The per vehicle per day cost in fiscal 2019 will be $336. I have estimated that we would be able to offset our transportation costs (i.e. reduce the general fund appropriation) by $100,000. In the current school year 2,353 students pay a fee to ride a bus to and from school. My calculation of $100,000 in increased fee revenue is based on 2,000 fee-based riders.

These initial recommended reductions amount to $640,000 with approximately $670,000 more in reductions necessary to meet the Town Manager’s recommended appropriation.”