The Board of Education on Monday approved sending to voters a $47.3 million budget that eliminates 21 full-time equivalent positions, but school officials warned that further cuts are likely next year.
The budget represents an increase of $677,779 from this year’s spending plan and would increase the tax rate by 3.12 percent. If endorsed by voters at the polls on May 18, the owner of an average house assessed at $160,000 would see his taxes increase by about $100 to $3,277.
Board members restored several positions and programs that Superintendent Susan Swartz had proposed to eliminate in an earlier version of the budget, including the Young Scholars enrichment program, partial summer school, the varsity swim and golf programs and a floating nurse position.
Swartz said they can cover about half of the roughly $19,000 cost of restoring the swim and golf programs by eliminating a level of football. They are also looking at increasing some fees and looking to the booster clubs to make up the difference.
Swartz tapped an additional $260,000 from the surplus and factored in an additional $50,000 in savings on energy costs. Swartz also reduced the supply budget by another 10 percent, cut the use of secretarial substitutes and elementary field trips to save another $58,000.
She also told the board that she believes she can run a high school summer school program for about $30,000. The program would focus on the core classes of global history, U.S. history, integrated algebra and algebra II. She also believes she will be able to offer some classes for failing eighth-graders.
The Board of Education decided to restore a floating nurse position after feedback from the public. Board member Colleen Benedetto, who has a child with juvenile diabetes, also spoke passionately about the issue. She said the district only has three substitute nurses and restoring that floating nurse adds 0.1 to the tax rate.
“I don’t think the liability we have by not having that nurse is worth that 0.1,” she said.
The board ultimately met her halfway by having the floating nurse work only three days a week.
Board member John Yagielski said he thinks the board did a good job but apologized to the people who would lose their jobs. He did not think the board would be able to just make trims next year.
“We need to start thinking about those larger programmatic, strategic changes,” he said, adding those could include closing a school, changing the schedule or merging services with other districts.
Fellow board member Ben Conlon agreed that the board has to trim its bottom line next year. “Without significant changes in how we do business even flat [aid] is a double digit tax increase.”
President Pamela Carbone believes the board responded to the feedback it heard from the community.
“They didn’t want to see us cut anymore,” she said. “There’s no doubt about the fact that we’re going to have to cut more next year.”