NORTHBOROUGH – The Public Schools of Northborough has decreased its proposed budget for the 2023 fiscal year by just over $240,000 to a new figure of approximately $26.69 million.
The town has asked the school district to limit its budget increase to 3.39% over its previous budget for the 2022 Fiscal Year. This plan, though, would represent a 3.46% increase.
“So, we’re over that percentage at this particular time,” Superintendent Greg Martineau said during a presentation to the School Committee on Jan. 5.
District still working to add positions
Martineau said administrators are still discussing two proposed positions.
Those are an instructional technology specialist and a team chair. Both were not included in the presented budget.
Martinaeu said, however, that he was confident they could be included in a future iteration.
“We just need some time to figure out exactly how and what that will look like,” he said.
There is currently an IT specialist at Melican Middle School. But there hasn’t been one at the elementary level for many years.
A team chair, Martineau said, is “instrumental” in supporting families. The staff member would provide administrative support and leadership in the special education program.
There is one team chair at the elementary level. The district wants to add a second.
School Committee members react to budget
Staff had requested a total of 8.2 full-time equivalent positions as the district gathered input for its preliminary budget. This IT position and the team chair position were two of those requests.
School Committee Chair Lauren Bailey-Jones asked on Jan. 5 how the district distilled the fire rounds of requests down to those positions.
Martineau said the principals prioritized the positions. Staff then met to determine what positions would have the most impact on programs and students.
School Committee member Keith Lebel said he had “mixed feelings” about adding the minimum number positions under the town’s requested increase.
“We’re in a very difficult circumstance,” Lebel said. “We’ve been battered by the pandemic and we have some lost time to make up. I feel like we need to take things up a notch.”
Lebel said it was “frustrating” to see the list of positions decreased to the “maybe two” positions, adding that he wanted to see the schools grow and improve their programs.
Martineau said the district “has a lot of resources.” Part of the work in this budget process involves trying to maximize those resources, he said.
Member Joan Frank said she disagreed with Lebel.
She said it would be nice to have some of the proposed items, noting years when the budget increased by 11%.
Taxpayers are facing increases in costs for everything from medicine to food, Frank said.
“I think we have to work cooperatively with the town,” she continued. “I think the town has been generous to us. Could we be asking for more? Yes, but I don’t think this is the time to be doing it.”
Budget hearing to take place in March
The School Committee did not vote on the recommended budget as Martineau asked for additional time. He noted that the district would know by Jan. 15 if any teachers will be retiring or not returning for the 2022-2023 school year.
The budget will come back before the School Committee before a budget hearing in March.