Westborough School Committee approves FY23 budget

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Westborough town iconWESTBOROUGH – The Westborough School Committee voted 5-0 to approve a recommended budget for the 2023 fiscal year, Dec. 15, approving a $3.3 million increase over the district’s 2022 budget. 

That increase, which translates to a 5.8 percent change based on the 2022 fiscal year budget, is driven primarily by what district Finance Director David Gordon described as a “perfect storm” of factors, including previously agreed upon salary increases and ongoing efforts to restore items cut from previous budgets due to COVID-19. 

“We realize it’s big,” Gordon said of the budget increase in a presentation to the School Committee. “That’s something to be upfront about.”

“But with the cuts and then with the historic, agreed upon effort to get teachers compensation to a level where they felt it was suitable and kind of matching our peer districts, it’s kind of the perfect storm of having a reduced budget but having a large increase on 80 percent of your budget,” he continued.

Vote is part of ongoing budget process

The budget process has been ongoing for months already. And it will continue through Town Meeting next year. 

This vote by the School Committee marks a step forward, though, as the budget will now go before various town boards and groups in the coming months for review and discussion.

“We move forward very collaboratively with the town,” Superintendent Amber Bock said Dec. 15. “We have a lot of good work ahead of us.”

“We do continue to work in collaboration with the Select Board and the Town Manager and our Advisory Finance Committee who always have great guidance and advice for us,” School Committee Chair Kristen Vincent later added. 



‘Human capital’ contributes majority of budget increase

The budget itself took its current form after Bock made $201,000 in reductions to an initial budget draft.

Of the remaining $3.3 million increase, Gordon noted, $2.7 million comes in the form of “human capital,” including those salary increases. Another $630,000 addresses a gap in state circuit breaker funding while $132,000 concerns increases in transportation costs. 

A handful of other, smaller items fill out the increase in what school officials described as a “lean” budget. 

This total 5.8 percent increase, likewise, is impacted by cuts prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic in previous years that the district is working to restore.

If those cuts had not taken place, this increase would be closer to 3.8 percent, Gordon said. 

School officials discuss town budget concerns

As the budget process moves forward, the School Committee did note a recent presentation that Town Manager Kristi Williams and town Assessor Johnathan Steinberg made to the Select Board highlighting a possible major tax increase for FY23.

That warning was based on an initial budget projection that could ultimately lead to a $1,290 increase in the average tax bill for single-family residential homeowners. 

Town officials in conjunction with the Select Board discussed efforts to reduce that increase. They added that they hoped the schools would reduce their budget, which the projection said could contribute more than $400 to that overall average tax bill increase.

Speaking on Dec. 15, school officials emphasized that they feel their budget contains funding crucial to maintain an expected level of service in Westborough. 

“We talked with our school leaders [and] our program directors and said, ‘What can you do strategically ensuring student progression and growth, but at the same time managing at the same budget that you’ve historically had?’ ” Gordon said. “I think that they’ve done a good job of managing that without asking for more.”

“We need to make sure that the schools are property funded so that we can keep the high standards that the community expects us to do,” added School Committee Member Raghu Nandan. “We can’t really afford to lose the good school system that we have.”

Bock reiterated the district’s commitment to work with others in town in what is an ongoing larger budget process. 

“We’re pretty committed to staying in relationship with the town while also being clear that we need to maintain the quality of schooling that people have moved to the community for. 

Additional School Committee members weighed in before Sara Duella motioned to approve the budget as recommended. 

That motion proceeded to a vote, with the committee approving the budget unanimously.

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