SHREWSBURY, Massachusetts – The long and winding road that is the Shrewsbury Budget season of 2014 kicked off tonight, as Superintendent Joe Sawyer presented to the School Committee a first glimpse at his vision of the coming fiscal year. The figures presented tonight were not a “formal budget request,” by any means. That will come much later after weeks of discussion and meetings, public presentations, and of course will ultimately depend on what funds are available both from state aid, and consequentially from town manager Dan Morgado’s allocation from the total pool of Shrewsbury resources.
Some had anticipated that we would be looking tonight at a “level service budget,” which would reflect what our cost would be to merely continue the vastly underfunded program currently in place, while taking into account mandatory increases in personnel costs. Instead, we were presented with a picture of what “could be,” if funds were to be made available, to restore us not to perfection, but at least to the already understaffed levels of two years ago. In brief, the recommendations discussed tonight would include adding back 21 teaching positions, to reduce class sizes, at a cost of $1.121 Million, as well as $260,000 in additional administrative positions, and $292,000 for curriculum instruction and special education. Also on the table was $526k for technology, an additional 16 positions for special education, costing 720k, and 467k in special education out of district costs.
Rounding out the budget plan, we had 409k in miscellaneous operating costs, 113k for safety and security, and $634,000 to provide salary increases to teachers under the current contract. The total delta, when compared to the current budget, reflects a potential increase of $4.4 Million, or an 8.85% increase for FY 2014. Obviously this will not be the final set of numbers that we will see. It does, however, give a bit of a glimpse into the level of funding we need, not to achieve luxury, but just to get back to even a remotely reasonable baseline. Within those numbers, of course, one could dissect a subset of costs that are non-negotiable, and that would need to be incorporate even in a level-funded budget, such as the mandated salary increases, and mandated special ed costs, which alone total over $1M, and this means that without an increase in the budget of at least that amount, we could see further cuts in the future. I doubt it will come to that though, as these budgets have a way of maneuvering through the constant back and forth process and coming around with something that everyone can be happy with in the end.
Remember to stay informed, ask questions, and feel free to render an opinion to the school committee directly by emailing them at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org