School budget gap at $401,614

Apr 11, 2019 by

Little interest in hearing for $32M budget

Published April 11, 2019

By JILLIAN STRING

NORTH READING — Director of Finance and Operations Michael Connelly, Superintendent Jon Bernard, and the members of the School Committee held a public hearing for the fiscal year 2020 (FY20) budget on Monday evening.

Connelly presented the recommended budget to Finance Committee member Don Kelliher, who was the only person in the audience at the hearing.

According to Connelly, there are four budget drivers for FY20.

“Contractual salary obligations are always a driver of the school budget. Salaries represent 82.7 percent of our total budget request,” Connelly said.

Other drivers include year four of the district strategic plan NRPS 2021, operational costs (building maintenance, busing, utilities), and special education out-of-district expenses.

“The fiscal 20 budget represents year four of the five-year strategic plan, and (NRPS 2021) has really been a working document that’s guided the district and the administrative team and the School Committee in looking at our enhancements and our initiatives,” Connelly said.

For operational costs, Connelly noted that adjustments have been made to cover increasing rates for utilities, as well as contractual services such as software licenses, legal services, and insurance.

According to Connelly, out-of-district costs for special education students are expected to increase for FY20.

“The district anticipates a slight decrease in the number of students that will be out-of-district in FY20, but even despite the anticipated decrease in the number of students, we still feel that this line items will increase in order to meet the needs of these students,” Connelly said.

Connelly noted that the district has allocated resources, especially in the area of social emotional learning, to help decrease the need for out-of-district placements.

Recommended budget: $32M

The recommended FY20 budget of $32,083,320 represents a 4.3 percent increase over the FY19 budget.

Connelly stated that the Finance Planning Team is working to close a budget gap of $401,614 for the FY20 recommended budget.

The district is currently awaiting state budget actions and will be applying for extraordinary relief funding again this year. North Reading received $60,000 in extraordinary relief funding for FY19.

School Committee members thanked Connelly for all of his work thus far, and acknowledged the challenges of balancing a school budget.

“It’s just ridiculous. When you look at the funding sources, 13 percent of our budget comes from state aid, and special education is 22 percent of our budget. It’s just out of whack,” Committee Vice Chairman Scott Buckley said.

Connelly encouraged members of the public to visit the district website (www.north-reading.k12.ma.us) for more detailed information regarding the school budget.

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