Winchester School Budget Fills Basic Needs
Superintendent William McAlduff calls the 2012 budget "lean," and School Committee Chair, Sarah Girotti, said it would be "devastating" to the school budget if a general override fails.
This story is part of a nationwide Patch series probing the economy's effect on local schools.
The School Department submitted its budget to the town recently. And while the School Committee and Superintendent William McAlduff were able to avoid having to cut any programs, it is far from their ideal budget.
Winchester principals wanted a nine percent increase in its budget from 2011, but were forced to settle for a 4.09 percent increase. This budget allows the town to maintain its current staffing, provide for the increase in Special Education costs and hire two more full-time core teachers at McCall Middle School, which is projected to have an increase of 70 students next year.
“There are no new programs,” McAlduff said. “It’s lean. Moving forward if we would have to reduce the budget any further it’s likely we would need to look at reducing positions. This budget reflects our minimum needs.”
The budget is not yet official because residents will need to vote on a $1.8 million general override on March 29. If that fails then the school budget will need to be reduced, which concerns the School Department.
“This override is very important to the town,” said School Committee Chair, Sarah Girotti. “A loss on this override would be devastating to the school budget.”
According to Girotti, if the general override fails, the school budget would most likely need to be reduced by $700K to $800K, which would be equivalent to the jobs of 14 to 16 teachers.
There were a number of programs that both McAlduff and Girotti would have both liked to fund next year, but were cut out of the budget because of the financial limitations of the town. Girotti was disappointed they were not able hire clinical counselors for the elementary schools and were unable to fund Year 2 of the Mandarin program.
“The school administrators all asked for clinical counselors to support what they see as an increase in behavior and emotional things at the school level,” Girotti said. “They requested an increase in staff in that area and we were not able to do it this year. There’s been an up-tick, not just here, but across the country in a need for more emotional support for children.”
McAlduff explained that this budget also failed to hire more staff at McCall in the exploratory subjects – art, music, physical education – which will increase the size of those classes. They were also unable to fund an additional fifth elementary librarian, which would have given each elementary school its own full-time librarian.
Even though a four percent increase in the school budget is right around where the town has been over the last few years, a number of factors have made this budget even more difficult to figure out. A decrease in town appropriations, the one-time American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds of $225K that are no longer available, the new collective bargaining agreement and the continued increase in special education funding has limited what this budget was able to accomplish.
“We recognize the tough financial times we're in,” Girotti said. “We were able to shave the budget to get it to where we needed, but this doesn't meet all the needs that we have in the district."