The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, November 13, 2009

CCHS seeks to absorb state aid cuts

Two weeks ago, the state told school districts there would be more reductions in state aid for the present FY10 school year, following a first round of cuts made last June. At the Concord-Carlisle Regional School Committee (RSC) meeting on November 10, Deputy Superintendent John Flaherty pointed out that 4.75 Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) teachers at the high school had been let go as a result of the June aid cuts and said that the newest aid cut amounted to $118,000. On a positive note, Flaherty said that the state will be reimbursing almost $1,000 more for charter tuitions, bringing the deficit down to $117,000. He described how funds will be shifted within the Concord-Carlisle Regional High School (CCHS) budget to accomodate the aid reduction. With adjustments, Flaherty said, “We can absorb the second cut.”

Since the state reduced special education “circuit breaker” reimbursement amounts significantly in the late spring, the regional school district had budgeted more funds for special education out-of-district expenses in FY10 and FY11. However, Flaherty has received confirmation that the circuit breaker reimbursement will be reduced to 40%, a smaller reduction than anticipated. This knowledge allowed for $100,000 to be taken out of the special education out-of-district account to cover the shortfall caused by the second round of state aid cuts. The remaining $17,000 will be taken from the professional contingency account.

Regional transportation aid

The RSC then discussed the reductions in regional transportation aid. RSC member Louis Salemy pointed out that the aid from the state was $381,000 two years ago and has fallen to $149,000. Originally, the state said they would pay for regional transportation as an incentive for towns to regionalize and RSC member Jerry Wedge commented that the governor has a policy to encourage regionalization. “What’s the message if the one incentive to regionalize is going away?” he asked.

If towns take state aid for regional transportation, they are not allowed to charge fees for riding those buses. However, as the amount from the state for regional transportation dwindles, the RSC members discussed whether it might make sense to stop taking these funds from the state in order to initiate a bus fee. It was speculated that if they charged a bus fee, perhaps it would lower the number of buses needed, only accommodating those that buy bus passes. Wedge pointed out that if the regional school district starts charging bus fees, “It’s not a huge savings to parents.”

There is $90,000 in the FY11 budget to buy a new bus. Flaherty explained, “The RSC has a 16-bus fleet. We operate on a 10-year replacement plan.” Superintendent Diana Rigby pointed out, “We have deferred buying a bus for two years.” Flaherty added, “I will hold off on buying that bus as long as possible to see if unanticipated costs come up.”

FY11 budget

Rigby said, “We’re recommending getting to the Concord Finance Committee (FinCom) Guideline,” which represents 5% growth. Roughly $240,000 would have to be removed from the FY11 budget proposal to get from the regional school district’s Preliminary Needs Budget down to the Concord FinCom guideline. As the circuit breaker reimbursement reduction will be smaller than what was assumed, $100,000 can be removed from the Preliminary Needs Budget. An additional $80,000 can be removed due to lower assessments for the Concord Area Special Education Collaborative. These changes come to $180,000 of the $240,000 reduction needed to reach the Concord FinCom guideline, and represents roughly a $60,000 savings for Carlisle. Salemy said, “For Carlisle, this is $60,000 of relief. This is welcome news.”

The Carlisle FinCom has requested a smaller increase of 3% to 4%. Salemy urged the committee to do everything they can to help Carlisle out with their budget woes.

There is still a $63,000 gap between the CCHS budget proposal and the Concord FinCom guideline. Rigby said the high school will begin to look at adjusting staffing to get closer to the contractual limit of a 95:1 ratio between students and teachers. The current ratio is 91 students per teacher. Rigby said there may be a reduction of 3.5 FTEs across core subjects which include science, math, social studies, English and foreign language. In addition, the administration has been looking at under-enrolled classes. Another reduction of 0.875 FTEs might occur there, in non-core academic areas. “We will be working with [Principal] Peter [Badalament] very carefully,” said Rigby who wants to preserve programs at CCHS.

The RSC will continue to discuss the budget at their next meeting on November 24. The budget will be set in December. ∆

© 2009 The Carlisle Mosquito