The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, January 26, 2007


Carlisle School asks for $241K override

The Carlisle School Committee (CSC) approved an $8,907,684 budget for the FY08-09 school year. At the January 17 meeting, Business Manager Heidi Zimmerman presented the final budget, which is a 5.8% increase over last year's budget. The Carlisle Finance Committee has recommended a 3% levy limit budget, which would total $8,666,684. The school's budget would require a $241,000 override.

Multiple votes needed

The committee voted twice on the budget. When votes were first taken only committee members Michael Fitzgerald and Chad Koski approved the budget. Acting Chair Christy Barbee (Chair Nicole Burkel was absent) voted against the budget, and member Wendell Sykes abstained.

Sykes expressed frustration that so much was being cut from the budget. Barbee voted against the budget because she is concerned about the eighth grade class size. She suggested decreasing the special education staff and hiring an eighth-grade teacher. She said she felt the large eighth grade should be split into five sections. Doyle responded that the eighth-grade class is "ready for four teachers." The class is in five sections in seventh grade, with a class size of 20.6, which would increase to 25.75 with a four-teacher team. The eighth-grade teaching team is strong, Doyle explained, and she feels the students need to build independence to prepare for high school.

Fitzgerald, wanting to assure a quorum on the vote, pointed out that the final budget amount would remain the same whether a special education teacher was retained or a teacher moved to eighth grade. Barbee agreed to reconsider the vote. Fitzgerald, Koski, and Barbee voted to approve the budget. Sykes again abstained.

Reached by phone later, Sykes explained he was abstaining "as a symbolic gesture" to draw attention to the need for school spending to remain consistent from year to year. With over $2 million in free cash, he said, the town should be able to support a school budget that offers at least the same level of services as this year. He said he would have preferred voting for two budgets; the 5.8% and the original 6.8% budget.

3% levy limit budget is "detrimental"

Superintendent Marie Doyle explained her concerns about a budget based on the levy limit increase of 3%. In a memo to the School Committee she said, "Adherence to the levy limit budget would be detrimental to our system . . . [the school] would be forced to reduce our staff by ten positions: six teachers and four aides." In addition, curriculum coordinators would be eliminated; a permanent substitute position would be cut, as would sports stipends, textbook purchases and supplies. Ongoing maintenance projects such as replacing exhaust fans and carpeting, painting classrooms and repairing floors in the Corey Building would be cancelled.

5.8% budget not level service

The original "level service budget" proposed by the school asked for an increase of 6.8%, which would require an override of over $360,000. In order to reduce the override amount the school administration cut more than $110,000 from the budget across the board to bring the requested increase down to 5.8%, and an override of $241,000.

School members agreed the 5.8% budget does not match the current level of services and should not be thought of as a level service budget. The override request would not restore all the cuts that the levy limit would require. It would restore two special educators ($100,000), seven curriculum coordinators' stipends ($21,000), two middle school aides ($40,000) and four general education aides ($80,000).

Class sizes increase

Class sizes will increase in 2007-08. Keeping the aides in the budget, Doyle explained, is necessary to "help support students in large classes." Doyle outlined the anticipated class sizes in her memo (see table). Four grade levels have had their sections reduced by one: grade 2 to three sections, grades 5, 6, 7 to four sections. However, although the projected class size for the kindergarten is 79, Zimmerman said it is closer to 70 at this point, which would bring the estimated class size down to 17.5.

Top budget drivers

As reported in the January 12 Mosquito ("Carlisle School faces tough FY08 budget decisions"), the factors driving the budget increase include Special Education out-of-district placements, contractual salary increases, the waste water facility, energy costs, the new world language program and technology upgrades.

2007 The Carlisle Mosquito