Friday, January 19, 2001
Carlisle school FY 2002 budget proposes 11.55 percent increase All fees eliminated, new personnel added
The Clark Room at the town hall was packed to capacity as educators, parents, selectmen, and interested citizens came to hear the Carlisle school administration and school committee present their FY 2002 budget to the finance committee on January 10. In a well planned presentation, supported by a 25-page document, school committee chair Paul Morrison, Carlisle school superintendent Davida Fox-Melanson and school business manager Eileen Riley rolled out a budget totaling $7,112,905, an 11.55 percent increase over the previous year. This represents an excess of $290,042 over the finance committee's 7 percent budget guideline. According to the school, the current guideline "would necessitate significant reductions in personnel and programs."
Under the category of "regular education", the largest proposed increase, totaling $150,000, is for 5.75 full time equivalent (FTE) support personnel, including four new teaching assistants, one computer network specialist, and a 0.75 FTE lunch/playground aide. The four teaching assistants are requested to move the unusually large current fifth grade class into the middle school program. Under the category of "special education and student services" major increases included a full-time K-2 reading specialist, additional hours for the school psychologist and increased transportation costs. Additional increases are in hard to control areas such as mandated professional expenses, increased fuel and utilities costs, and other contractual obligations.
Four assistants for sixth grade "bubble" class
Currently all classes in the middle school are divided into four sections with approximately 22 students in each. Next year the incoming sixth grade class of 100 creates a bulge that will require a change to accommodate the increased numbers. The middle school operates differently than the lower school. Each grade has a teacher expert in a subject matter and the students and teachers rotate for the areas of instruction. If the current fifth grade class enters with five sections the balance will be changed and students will receive less instruction time with the skilled teacher. "The request for the additional aides seems to be the best solution, otherwise you take away from the subjects," said Superintendent Davida Fox-Melanson. In subsequent years, the assistants would move with the "bubble class" into the seventh and eight grades.
Unpopular fees eliminated
Last year, after the school budget had been approved by the Town Meeting, a deficit of $58,800 remained. Rather than cut personnel and programs, the school committee instituted a number of user fees to cover the gap. Fees were charged for bus transportation (for students living within a two-mile radius of the school), participation in athletic, band and other activities, and for full-day kindergarten. The concept of charging fees for public education proved to be highly unpopular with all school constituencies. The current budget has eliminated all fees, requesting an additional $45,000 to compensate for the loss of revenue.
FinCom looks for cuts
FinCom members commended the "very clear" presentation but questioned the out-of-guideline increases. When FinCom member Dave Ives asked about areas where where some cuts may be possible, the school responded that "there is no question of cutting back". The FinCom promised to study the proposal and schedule another session with the school for additional questions, discussions, and hopefully compromises.
Lee Milliken contributed to this story.
© 2001 The Carlisle Mosquito