North Attleborough students raise concerns over school budget

North Attleborough High School

North Star Reporter Intern

School budgeting is something that affects students, staff, and even the families of students.

There are many issues that students are concerned about that they think the budget should be used for. The Reporter spoke with several North Attleborough students to get their opinions on how the money is spent and any areas that could use more attention.

Charlotte Aubin feels that more of the budget should be prioritized on school safety..

“It could be as simple as making our student ID cards also work at the card scanners for teachers to allow ourselves into the building and keep other people out,” Aubin said.

She also felt that more of the school budget should be focused towards non-sports departments like art and theater because according to her, “…It feels like we’re constantly fundraising which I’m glad to do, but is tiring.”

Grace Nobrega shared Aubin’s same thoughts on the budget concentrating more on safety.

“I think the school should be spending more money on security,” said Nobrega, “I feel like more and more students are feeling less safe in school, and if they want us to feel safe then they need to fix a couple things.”

She also shared the same thoughts as Aubin on security cards for students to be able to get into the building.

Jeylan Olmez felt that the budget’s biggest improvement would be made in making the school more environmentally-friendly.

“Although the school has recently made progress in reducing its environmental footprint, I believe there is still opportunity for improvement,” Olmez said.

An example she gave of this was switching from using single-use serving trays and utensils in the cafeteria to reusable ones. She feels if the school becomes more environmentally-friendly the students’ mindsets about the environment will improve as well.

Megan Le felt that the school budget could be used towards a different kind of remodel for the school.

“I think the school should invest in some remodels…The small lockers given to us are barely used by anyone so I believe they should be taken down or made into something more useful,” according to Le.

Corban Allen also wanted to see the budget be used to remodel certain areas of the school.

“The school definitely has areas they should utilize their funding toward, i.e. a new fire alarm system and updated bathrooms,”, said Allen. He also wants the school budget to be used to spend money on efforts towards improving students’ mental health with things like more guidance counselors.

Superintendent outlines budget plan

However, school budgeting is a pretty comprehensive process, according to Superintendent Dr. John Antonucci who said that schools are like a large business.

Antonucci said that the school budget is broken down into major categories. The biggest one is salaries which according to Antonucci, “makes up approximately 89 percent of the budget. Some of the other categories include utilities like electricity, water, and heat, as well as things like school bus transportation and special education.

“So the first thing we do really internally is take all of our current expenses and forecast it for the next year and we come up with an estimate for what it’s going to take,” said Antonucci.

The superintendent described this as the first step taken in building the school budget. He said that the most important part of the process is working with the staff to determine if any of the priorities change which needs have to be addressed due to that.

“It’s really like a two-stage process. It’s like the technical side of it, which is forecasting large, known expenses and then it’s about the kind of philosophy and values and goals that we have as a system to make sure that what we’re adding in the budget lets us accomplish some of those,” said Antonucci.

Part of school budgeting is also deciding which needs get met and which get pushed off.

Antonucci said, “I always say to people we really have in schools an infinite number of needs, but we have a finite amount of resources, we can’t do it all.”

According to Antonucci, it’s a matter of prioritization and working together as a team to determine the current priorities.

When talking about how they decide their current priorities Antonucci said, “It’s really just a matter of talking to people who are really invested and involved in the programs and then making kind of the most informed decision that we can. It’s really more of an art than a science.”

Another piece of a school budget is also dealing with the needs that don’t get met and need to be pushed off.

“When I present my budget I talk a lot about what’s in the budget, but I also talk a lot about what’s not in the budget,” Antonucci said. “I have this saying all the time ‘because a need goes unfunded doesn’t mean the need has gone away’.”

This means that costs for certain things have to be deferred to families. According to Antonucci this comes up when the district charges money for things like athletics, extracurricular activities, and riding the bus and they’re called user fees. Antonucci said in relation to deferring costs to families “That happens a lot more with the extracurricular activities, athletics, music, other extracurricular activities, not so much with the core academic programs, English, math, right because those things by law we have to provide.”

Antonucci also mentioned how certain items need to be pushed off. He said, “Those other extras sometimes we do have to push those off if we want to have them. It’s really unfortunate, but it’s just kind of the reality of a limited funding situation.”

There are also many needs that the district is looking to address in the near future.

“The first is our school facilities,” Antonucci said. “Many if not most of our school buildings are really old and we have many places where we need facility upgrades or repairs or renovations.”

Specifically, one of the biggest focuses right now is the high school. Antonucci said that the state has approved the district to  explore renovating, expanding, or potentially building a new high school.

One of the other categories mentioned by Antonucci is programming.  “We need to make sure that we have programs and courses and course offerings that meet the needs of all of our students in the North Attleborough Public Schools,” said Antonucci.

He also mentioned how the district is looking to focus more and more on the social and emotional well-being of students and how taking steps towards that costs money as well.

Overall, there are many factors that go into building a school budget and what needs are the biggest priority at the current moment.

“It’s yes we have to run the business, but we also have to remember that we’re an educational institution and we need to make sure that every single student in the North Attleborough Public Schools has a place here and has an opportunity to learn and has something that meets their interest and their needs,” he said.