School Committee cuts $1 million from proposed budget
Business Manager Michael MacMillan arrived at Wednesday’s School Committee meeting ready to deliver something town officials have been adamant about – a hefty cut in the school district's proposed FY18 budget
MacMillan, who oversees district finances, unveiled a list of nine line item reductions. The cuts close the gap between what school officials originally requested and what the town can afford to pay. Those reductions amount to a $1,102,811 decrease, bringing the new budget proposal to $28.2 million. If approved, that figure marks an increase of 1.1 percent from this year.
“This budget has not been arrived at easily,” MacMillan told committee members. “It’s something we worked very closely on with the town.”
Originally, the committee requested a $29.9 million budget for the district: nearly $2 million higher than the town’s recommendation. Over several meetings with the Finance Committee and Town Administrator Derek Sullivan, who are wrestling with skyrocketing health care and pension costs, school officials learned that the funds just aren’t available.
MacMillan said cuts to transportation, curriculum, supplies and staff are necessary to meet the town’s recommended budget. Topping the list is a $743,586 staff reduction.
“That is the most significant cut, staff positions. That would require reducing 10 and a half positions,” said MacMillan. He added that some of those cuts will be due to retirements. On a positive note, he said the district is looking to hire eight and half new teachers so only two teaching positions will be lost.
Additional cuts on the list are: $110,000 for custodial supplies, $77,284 for other supplies and services, $35,000 for curriculum and $100,000 for transportation.
Regarding transportation, MacMillan said the savings will come from removing bus service for all students who live within 2-miles of school. Currently, only students who live within 1-mile of school must walk.
“That’s obviously a big change,” said MacMillan, noting that 400 students will be affected by the decision.
School Committee members thanked MacMillan and town officials for working together on the issue. The proposed FY18 budget was approved with three separate motions. Each motion passed 4-0-1 with committee member Mary Morgan abstaining on all three occasions.
To become official, voters at Annual Town Meeting will have to approve the school budget. Town Meeting is set for April 24 at 7 p.m. in the Wareham High School Auditorium.