$86.8 million Shrewsbury schools budget proposed

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$86.8 million Shrewsbury schools budget proposed
Shrewsbury Superintendent Joe Sawyer presented his budget recommendation to the School Committee Feb. 7. (Photo/Laura Hayes)

SHREWSBURY – Shrewsbury Public Schools proposed fiscal 2025 budget is hoping to address the district’s post-COVID literacy challenges.

Superintendent Joe Sawyer outlined his budget recommendation during the School Committee’s Feb. 7 meeting.

The school budget totals $86,825,520, an increase of 4.50% over last year’s amount, Sawyer said.

Of the $86.8 million, $74 million — or 86% of the budget — will be allocated for ssalaries, while $3.4 million — or 4% — will go toward transportation. The remaining 10% of the budget will be spent on special education tuition and transportation, educational supplies and vocational tuition.

Whereas other budget cycles involve deciding which areas to cut, Sawyer said that this year’s budget was less painful to create. Sawyer credited the town’s May 2021 override for providing “sufficient resources” for the fiscal 2025 budget. Roughly 60% of town voters approved the override in 2021, which gave the school district much-needed financial support and helped Shrewsbury solve an educational “budget crisis” at the time.”

“That stability has been critical. In the post-COVID landscape, it’s been especially important,” Sawyer said.

What is proposed

The 2025 budget includes investments throughout the district, according to documents obtained by the Community Advocate.

For one, the budget funds several positions aimed to increase literacy and language skills, including money for one full-time speech language pathologist, one full-time English language education teacher, one full-time English language education coordinator and one middle-school reading specialist. The budget also calls for new textbooks and classroom materials for students throughout the district.

The literacy and language funding is meant to address district-wide challenges. Roughly 38% of Shrewsbury students’ first language is not English, compared to roughly 26% of students statewide, according to Sawyer’s presentation.

In addition, MCAS scores indicate that Shrewsbury elementary-age students’ scores have dropped in recent years. For instance, the percentage of grade-three students meeting or exceeding expectations on the English language test dropped from 81% in 2019 to 64% in 2023. Shrewsbury’s scores are still well above the state average of 44%.

The budget also funds several initiatives aimed to increase well-being in the district, which Sawyer identified as one of the district’s challenges during his State of the District address at the Jan. 24 School Committee meeting.

The budget includes one full-time occupational therapist, one full-time clinical coordinator, an adjustment counselor at Shrewsbury High School and one well-being coordinator. These positions will advance the district’s “commitment to the enhanced well-being of all,” budget documents say. The budget also continues the district’s late bus service.

“Our school district continues to face significant challenges in a post-pandemic landscape where our schools continue to work to address gaps in learning, [and] ongoing intensive student mental and behavioral health concerns,” Sawyer wrote in his executive summary of the proposed budget. “This budget allows us to continue to advance our work to address these needs, while maintaining our current personnel and programming, and staying focused on our strategic commitments and priorities.”

Shrewsbury’s average teacher salary, which sits at $86,082, is comparable to nearby communities. Grafton ($80,266) and Westborough ($84,125) are slightly lower, while Hudson ($87,581), Marlborough ($89,120) and Northborough ($103,323) have higher average teacher salaries than Shrewsbury.

Sawyer’s budget is currently unofficial, and in the budget documents he said that “the projections on which this budget recommendation is based will evolve over the course of the coming months.”

The School Committee will vote on the budget in subsequent meetings.

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