By Max Bowen-Max.firstname.lastname@example.org
Over the next several months, school officials will pour over 472 line items to find news ways to reduce costs without impacting services.
Superintendent John Antonucci—speaking at the Dec. 6 School Committee meeting—said the budget process would continue into June. At this time the schools are expecting a level-serviced budget, meaning no new programs, but contractual salary increases will be covered. This would mean a budget of a little over $45 million, or $2 million over last year’s. Personnel accounts for 88 percent of the budget, said the superintendent, and this number is closely monitored.
“Our employees are quite literally budgeted to the dollar,” he said, adding that the final budget document would include all line items.
Two changes to the budget process will be an accurate accounting of building maintenance. Antonucci told the committee that this line item has not been properly documented and that it’s gone beyond what was listed.
Technology spending has also seen a significant increase, with the inclusion of a Device Replacement Plan. Chromebooks for students, Wi-Fi hotspots for families without reliable internet, and electronic smart boards are among the recent purchases. When the pandemic forced a change to remote education, more devices were bought so every student could learn at home.
“Over the last five or six years we’ve made a significant investment in technology,” he said.
Moving forward, Antonucci said that the process will include looking for ways to save money. He pointed to a reduction in paper that has accounted for $100,000 in savings, and outside sources such as the ESSER grants and Circuit Breaker funds could be utilized for growth and development.
“This is not a final product, but feel we have a good handle on things,” he said.
The committee was supportive of the plan, pointing out that the level of detail was better than in years past. Committee member John Costello said it was the most comprehensive plan he had seen, and Tasha Buzzell was excited by the idea of more details on how money will be spent. Justin Pare, the Town Council representative on the committee, saw the potential in this revamped process.
“This will let you see how the money is being spent and where,” said Pare. “And if there’s opportunity to use the money to accelerate important programs and drive efficiencies.”