School Superintendent Everett “Bill” Olsen is requesting a 2.38 percent increase for the next fiscal year’s budget as compared to the previous fiscal year.
The percentage is in line with Town Manager Jodi Ross’s recommendation.
If approved, the school budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 will be $55,997,158.
The numbers are based on numerous budget assumptions, Olsen said. Among them:
- High School enrollment will increase in the next several years and is expected to peak in the
2019-2020 school year.
- School Choice openings will remain at 75 for 2017-2018.
- Revolving fund revenues will remain relatively stable and are needed to supplement the town’s
appropriation to fund the total cost of school operations.
- The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education continues to bring forth initiatives which require staffing and or additional expenses.
- The department continues to use School Choice and Circuit Breaker funds to offset total operating costs.
- The budget addresses some collective bargaining agreements.
- The teachers agreement is unknown as of date of the budget submission.
A huge unknown for future planning, said Olsen is how many new residences will be coming online in town in the near future.
“…there are 642 more residential housing units planned for construction with the potential for several hundred more units,” he said.
Developers who propose affordable housing developments in town have great latitude under the Chapter 40B affordable housing law. The law encourages housing developments if 10 percent or less of a community’s total housing inventory is not sold or rented at below-market rates to low and moderate-income dwellers.
“The town will shortly have in front of it three 40B projects that are submitted by developers who want to develop under the comprehensive permit or Chapter 40B of Mass. General laws. They have the right to do that because we have not yet met 10 percent of our housing as affordable,” said Chris Kluchman, the town’s director of land use development.
Olsen said that despite last year’s projections of a declining student population, prompting some to push for closing one of the town’s nine school buildings, he is relieved that he resisted. The space could be needed, he said.
Population increases are projected for Westford Academy and the Nabnasset, Day, Robinson, and Abbot Schools for 2017-18. The Crisafulli, Miller, Blanchard, and Stony Brook schools will see slight decreases.
Olsen is recommending adding the following staff positions and annual salaries to meet student needs amounting to $313,490 in new requests:
- A full-time English Language Learning teacher for students from non-native English speaking homes — $54,154
- A part-time Spanish teacher for advancing students — $21,662
- A part-time Mathematics teacher to teach required courses — $32,492
- A full-time special needs teacher — $54,154 (salary); $8,000 (supplies)
- Two new pre-school teaching assistants — $33,908
- A full-time special education teacher for the Miller School — $67,212
- Two full-time special education assistants — $33,908
The remaining $8,000 that Olsen is requesting would go toward materials for makerspaces — areas designed to give students opportunities for creative thinking, problem-solving, and collaboration.
Olsen summed up his budgeting approach by saying, “The first assumption is, we made every effort to present a budget that recognizes the revenue limitations. However, we’re not willing to sacrifice the quality of services to our students.”