Friday, March 23, 2001
Carlisle school says 10.5% FY02 increase required for level services
After discussions with the finance committee and selectmen, the Carlisle School Committee has prepared a revised fiscal year 2002 budget of $7,044,687 which is $668,180, or 10.48% above the FY01 budget. At its March 12 meeting the school committee voted unaimously to recommend that an override option be placed before Town Meeting and on the Town Election Ballot in the amount of $150,000 for the purpose of delivering level services to Carlisle's school children.
Rising enrollments and SpEd
The 10.48% increase for FY02 primarily reflects an expected 4.1% enrollment increase, as well as substantial increases in mandated special education services, the bus contract, a teachers' contract, and several cases of litigation. Unlike last year, the part-time, full-day kindergarten program, school bus service, and activities are in the budget, and fees for these programs will be eliminated. Only varsity athletics will continue to charge fees. New requests are a reading specialist (estimate $54,769) for the elementary school grades K-2, and four assistants to handle the unusual 100-student bulge of five sections of fifth grade that are squeezed into four sixth grade sections.
Cuts may be necessary
Even if the town accepts the requested budget, some budgeted expenditures may need to be trimmed. Superintendent Davida Fox-Melanson said, "There is an implication that although this budget is big there is some fat in it; that it can be nickeled and dimed. It is not the case." The school will need to review its assumptions and priorities and likely make some cuts.
School committee chair Paul Morrison pointed out that there are many needs such as technology, which continues to be outdated or inadequate, and improved school maintenance which "is grossly inadequate." Fox-Melanson said they could cut the K-2 reading specialist although "not happily. All students flow through these services...which are valuable in preventing reading problems before children reach higher grades."
School committee member Harry Crowther gave his opinion that it was important to "hold onto the reading specialist and instead have two aides for the sixth-grade class instead of four." Fox-Melanson explained that the present fifth grade could go on to the sixth in its present structure of five sections. However, the middle school is organized differently. The teachers are hired according to expertise and the students travel to the teacher and classroom. The choice is to have four large classes of 25 students with aides or to have five sections in the sixth grade with shorter periods of time with each teacher.
Whatever decision is made it would be for the three years the students are in middle school. This particular class islarge and following classes return to smaller numbers. The present budget has the sixth grade in four sections with an assistant in each.
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