Friday, March 10, 2006
More students, rising costs challenge CCHS Concord faces override
Rising costs in running the Concord-Carlisle High School (CCHS) are due to many factors, including contractual obligations, special education costs, debt service, energy and health care. Last week, the Regional School Committee (RSC) and the Concord Finance Committee presented information about the proposed FY07 CCHS budget and related override articles on the Concord Warrant at the Alcott School auditorium.
CCHS Superintendent Brenda Finn described core budgeting principles to maintain class size, support excellent instruction, preserve "modest" FY06 curriculum and extracurricular additions which support the increased enrollment and provide professional development. Finn said the focus is on students and learning. "We want to give rich and varied opportunities for our young people to learn." In addition, she said maintenance budgets need to increase in order to address safety and health concerns and to improve the teaching and learning environments.
In FY02, state aid made up 12.4% of the CCHS budget. In FY06, it makes up 8.3%. In FY06 Carlisle received $803 per student, CCHS received $1,142 per student, and the state average per student is $3,341.
Finn explained the escalating costs. Contractual increases in salary, health insurance hikes and Special Education private-placement tuition cost increases have all added to the bottom line.
The Concord override amount, the difference between the RSC proposed budget and the levy limit, is $473,782. Carlisle's share of this is $128,300. It has not been decided yet how Carlisle will fund this, or whether Carlisle voters will face an override.
The RSC is also asking for $1,200,000 in capital improvements to the high school (Article 45 on the Concord Warrant.) The improvements include: a new intercom system for $350,000, new fire doors and associated hardware needed to integrate the fire alarm system for $360,000, asbestos abatement and improvements to the safety systems in the science labs for $300,000, a better ventilation system in the art and photo room for $60,000, installation and housing of an emergency generator for $30,000, energy-efficient lighting for $100,000 and other repairs.
RSC member Michael Fitzgerald spoke about the need to do these improvements. He said a Feasibility Study that was done last year which concluded with a recommendation to the RSC to build a new high school for about $100 million. The RSC has not voted on that recommendation yet. The Massachusetts School Building Authority is coming up with new guidelines. "Reimbursement is essential for building a new high school," said Fitzgerald. He expects a 40% reimbursement. He added, "We will not go forward without reimbursement." Fitzgerald also laid out a timeline. In 2008, the RSC will ask for money for design funds. In 2009 the towns will vote on construction money. He expects a new high school to open in 2012. The funds requested in Article 45 are necessary to improve safety at the current high school since a new high school is at least six years away.
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