Friday, November 14, 2008
CCHS looks at 4 to 6% budget growth next year
A 6% increase is needed in the Concord-Carlisle Regional High School (CCHS) budget to provide level services next year, according to Deputy Superintendent for Finance and Operations John Flaherty. At the Concord-Carlisle Regional School Committee (RSC) meeting on October 28, Flaherty presented two preliminary budgets for FY10: a “Preliminary Needs” budget with an increase of 5.99%, and a reduced budget that meets the Concord Finance Committee Revised Guidelines (FRG) with a 4% increase over this year. Cuts in services will be needed to achieve the FRG budget.
The FRG increase of 4% supports a preliminary budget of roughly $22.2 million, of which Carlisle’s share would be $5.2 million.The RSC has not voted on any specific budget yet.
The Concord Finance Committee (Concord FinCom) had asked the RSC to produce the smaller budget and Concord FinCom Vice Chair Mark Howell said, “As we see the economic picture, we are increasingly concerned that state aid will not stay flat . . . We need to take a reasonable stab at picking a reduction. We have to come up with a guideline by December 1.” He recommended planning for a ballpark cut of 20% in state aid. “We expect some belt-tightening.” In addition, Howell thinks there will be some softening in town revenues, such as the excise tax on cars. “We want a budget that is below the levy limit to avoid an override.”
To reach the 4% FRG budget, the RSC is looking at not replacing a bus for a second year in a row, to continuing last year’s cuts to the supplies and materials budget and possibly losing two teachers. Flaherty said, “We are trying to preserve human capital. This would impact programs at CCHS.”
During the past few years student population growth has slowed; the current enrollment of 1,268 is nine more than last year. Enrollment data and projections provided by the New England School Development Council predict the CCHS enrollment to remain flat or decline slowly to about 1,211 students by 2013, and perhaps 50 fewer by 2018.
SPED costs rising again
According to Superintendent Diana Rigby, “Special education costs continue to increase in addition to fuel, energy and healthcare costs.” Preliminary numbers for special education (SPED) costs show an increase of 13.6%, with SPED transportation rising almost $300,000. This is a delayed effect of the sharp increase in out-of-district placements seen last year. Regular education costs were held almost flat, with less than a 1% increase. (Last year, SPED costs rose roughly 20%.)
Flaherty said the budget process will be challenging. He said there is a $550,000 difference between the 6% and 4% budgets. He reminded listeners that unemployment benefits to any laid-off employees would add $75,000 in expenses to the 4% budget.
School officials also met with representatives of the Concord and Carlisle Finance Committees (FinComs) on Thursday, November 6. Rigby reiterated that there is no increase to programs in the 6% Preliminary Needs Budget.
What might be cut
Rigby wanted a minimal restoration in supplies and materials (cut last year) as well as a bus purchase. Not only were these eliminated to reach the 4% budget, but further cuts in programs and reduction of staff would be necessary. Other cuts include: 3.45 full -time equivalents (FTE) in faculty, 2.5 FTE of support staff, reductions in professional development, reducing the athletic and co-curricular programs and reductions in purchase of library textbooks.
Discussion of these reductions ensued. Flaherty explained that the school district expects a ten-year replacement cycle for buses. That has been pushed to 12 years. Also, school officials felt that cutting the supplies and materials budget would be felt more severely the second year, because any extra materials have already been used. “The feedback from the department chairs is that there are real problems in the day-to-day operation of classrooms, particularly in science and art,” Flaherty said.
Concord FinCom Chair Walter Birge asked, “If you take three teachers out of the high school, what implications are there to the program?” Rigby replied that the average class size would increase from 22-23 students to 24 students and that some course electives may be affected. Flaherty explained that the teacher contract normally restricts teachers to 90 students, though that might be pushed to 95 if the regional school district can demonstrate that tight economic conditions exist.
Howell asked how the administration felt about these cuts. Rigby replied, “We are very concerned about each one of these reductions. It’s not just the academics; the co-curricular programs make our high school excellent.” Co-curricular programs include some 30 clubs and activities such as Radio Station WIQH, student government, pep band, dance club, Science Olympiad and student newspaper, to name a few. Rigby said, “We only made cuts in the spirit of working with FinCom.” She was also very concerned about cuts to professional development, saying it seriously affects teachers.
Rigby said there may be an increase in athletic fees. Costs would be shifted to the users. If fees were not increased, freshmen and junior varsity teams might need to be eliminated.
Capital improvements were also discussed. As a significant renovation or a new building seem to be pushed into the future, significant work will need to be done to the present building to keep it going. Flaherty presented a Preliminary Facility Improvement Plan for FY10 – FY14. Flaherty’s list calls for $750,000 in FY10 to be spent on improvements, safety issues and planning needs. Howell commented that capital improvements dropped off in 1999 when there was talk about a big renovation coming. Flaherty pointed out, “We have intermediate needs. The roof is 26 years old.” ∆
© 2008 The