Friday, January 11, 2008
Carlisle School Committee outlines FY09 level services budget
Carlisle School Superintendent Marie Doyle presented the 2008 — 2009 level services budget at the January 2 meeting of the Carlisle School Committee (CSC). The proposed budget is $9,421,796, which is a 6.9% increase, or $605,112 over the FY08 operating budget. (See Table 1.)
At the CSC meeting on January 16 the committee will discuss details of a zero-growth budget that meets the guideline set by the Carlisle Finance Committee (FinCom).
World language program
World language instruction begins with Spanish lessons offered in kindergarten through fourth grade, while Spanish, French and Chinese are offered in middle school, grades five through eight (see Table 2). Elementary Spanish instruction began two years ago and has been funded by a grant from the Carlisle Education Foundation (CEF). The grant is ending, and next year the program must be supported by the school, adding about $60,000 to the level services budget. Similarly, middle school Chinese instruction began with the help of a CEF grant in January 2006.
Doyle noted that elementary Spanish classes meet just 30 minutes each week and students would benefit from additional classroom instruction. Committee member Dale Ryder supported elementary foreign language, but asked whether it would be better to put the resources into another area if the sessions cannot be increased.
The School Committee discussed the difficulty the school faces when accepting donations funding staffing for new programs, such as the language program grants, which later force the school to absorb the cost. Ryder said that in a "perfect world" the language program is vital, but said funding "is a question that the community will have about the whole world language program. Does it justify itself?"
Doyle noted that school fees may be increased and additional fees may be added next year. Member Michael Fitzgerald thought fees are "beginning to spiral out of control" and noted that many communities have a family cap. (Carlisle does not.) Member Chad Koski and Ryder said the fees are an unfortunate reality. Ryder and Doyle agreed they would rather impose fees than lose teachers when money is scarce. Parent Mary Storrs noted that school supplies which are paid by parents are an extra fee that is not discussed.
"I'd like people to think about the middle school treasuries," said CSC Chair Nicole Burkel. The money raised at the Spaghetti Supper "is a significant amount," she said. "Is there any way to use those [funds] for after-school activities?" The funds are gathered and owned by the classes rather than the school, and are held in bank accounts by the Carlisle School Association. Classes typically raise about $10,000. Ryder replied, "That money is earmarked for certain purposes like graduation." Parent Julia Krapf noted, "Those funds are raised to make possible some activities which the entire grade participates in, whether or not the parents have the means to pay for extra fees at school."
One principal or two?
Beginning two years ago, the school administration has included two principals. Doyle said it is more effective than a principal/assistant principal or one-principal structure. It was estimated that switching back to a principal/assistant principal would save about $15,000. Burkel asked both Elementary School Principal Patrice Hurley and interim Middle School Principal Jim Halliday their opinion. "If the difference is $15,000 you should definitely keep two principals, no question," replied Halliday. He felt two principals give the school a "stronger educational environment." Elementary Principal Patrice Hurley agreed. While she felt the administration should also face reductions, she did not think it would be cost effective in the long run, and it would be very difficult for one principal to provide the same level of service.
"The thing that struck me most significantly when I came was the turnover. Somehow or other you have to stop the turnover of principals. I don't know how you do that. If Patrice had not been here, I would have floundered for about five months. If you go to one principal and one vice principal and they vanish on you next year, you're going to be in a lot of trouble,"Halliday said.
Potential budget cuts
CSC member Wendell Sykes pointed out that there is a huge gap between the FinCom guideline (zero-growth budget) and the budgetary needs of the school (level services budget). Discussing the impact large budget cuts could have, Ryder said, "I would hate for us to accept that we will have a less superior school." Sykes said, "This is a serious situation. . . People need to realize the potential impact of what we are facing and what we are talking about. I'm not sure the town realizes what this means. We will no longer have the current school system."
Parent Louis Salemy asked if regionalization has been considered. He said discussing regionalization would be uncomfortable for some people who have moved to Carlisle specifically for the small school.
CSC member Michael Fitzgerald noted the situation is "not all that different than [it was] ten years ago. We survived and were stronger for it. We continue to put out extremely good, highly intelligent kids from this school district. We have added to the program in the last four or five years. We may have added a program that we could not sustain in the long term and those are the questions we have to ask ourselves. We are adding the world language in the elementary school. It's a great program. It's one that I think we all support. The question is, can we support it?" Burkel replied that elementary language is just a small part of the budget.
Fitzgerald replied, "But we've added English and math curriculum coordinators; we've added specialists in those specific areas; we've added a school psychologist. I'm just saying this is the time we need to look at it because the questions we are asking ourselves are only going to be further amplified in the community."
Specific details on the impact of a zero-growth budget will be given at the January 16 CSC meeting, reminded Doyle.
The CSC will discuss the FY09 budgets with the FinCom on Wednesday, January 23.
Table 1. Carlisle School FY09 Level Services Budget
Item Cost % change from FY08
School Committee $44,753 -7.1%
School Administration $511,370 1.6%
Instructional salaries $4,721,824 6.3%
Instructional supplies $137,499 -3.1%
Special Education $1,980,065 9.2%
Out of district tuition $198,070 72.1%*
Facilities $1,039,993 4.5%
Other services ** $788,221 4.0%
* The out of district tuition actually decreased by 1.7%. But the reimbursement ("circuit breaker") funds, which are used to offset the tuition cost, also decreased by 44.2%. These funds, received more than a year in advance, are held by the school and applied to the next year's tuition.
** Other services include library, guidance, health, transportation, equipment and student activities.
Table 2. World Language program
Grade Language Minutes per week
K-1 Spanish 30
2-4 Spanish 41
5 Spanish, French or Chinese 41
6 Spanish, French or Chinese 41 x 3
7,8 Spanish, French or Chinese 41 x 4
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