Published May 5, 2021


LYNNFIELD — The School Department has cut over $900,000 from its proposed spending plan for fiscal year 2022, Superintendent Kristen Vogel told the Select Board last week.

Vogel originally proposed a $28,494,647 budget for FY22, which represented a 6.92 percent increase over the current fiscal year’s $26,651,605 budget allocation. After the School Committee told the first-year superintendent that she would have to reduce the proposed budget, Vogel and the Administrative Leadership Team worked together to reduce the spending plan by about $943,000. The revised budget totals $27,551,605, which equals a 3.38 percent increase over FY21.

“We cut over $900,000 to get to a 3.83 percent increase for next year,” said Vogel. “We are not filling two open positions at the high school. We reduced our digital subscriptions, textbooks, materials, district substitutes and professional development. We are eliminating two reading tutors at each elementary school, and we are not filling a long-term substitute position at the middle school. We found revenue increases with Circuit Breaker and an adjustment to special education out-of-district tuition and transportation costs.”

School Finance Director Tom Geary informed the Villager that the district will have “three less tutors next year” with Huckleberry Hill School, Summer Street and Lynnfield Middle School each slated to lose one tutor.

“Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds that we received from the state and federal government will cover the cost of one tutor at each of the three schools,” said Geary.

Vogel said school officials were able to reduce the proposed budget “without laying off teachers or negatively impacting the excellent educational experience that Lynnfield students receive every day.”

“What is most important is we continue to provide our students with an exceptional education while continuing to move the district forward,” said Vogel. “Our most precious asset in the schools is our students. We kept our focus on our students when making budget decisions.”

Similar to the originally proposed spending plan, Vogel is requesting 2.4 positions in the FY22 school budget. She also wants to make an existing part-time middle school position full-time.

Vogel is seeking to hire two full-time elementary school teachers due to increasing enrollment. Under the proposed plan, a teacher will be added to each school. Vogel said two open Lynnfield High School positions will not be filled, and those funds will be used to hire the new elementary school teachers.

“The additional teachers are needed to maintain the class sizes at the elementary level as enrollment continues to increase,” said Vogel.

Vogel is also requesting a .4 elementary physical education teacher due to increasing enrollment.

“We currently have a .6 physical education teacher who splits between the two schools,” said Vogel. “This request will make this position full-time and the teacher will continue to be split between both schools.”

The last new position in the School Department’s proposed FY22 budget is a 1.0 reading specialist for LMS. Vogel said this position will replace a current reading tutor at the middle school. She said the reading specialist position will be funded by not filling a long-term substitute position.

“The middle school reading specialist is needed so that we can continue to provide reading services for students who require it on their IEP,” said Vogel. “As students transition from elementary to middle school, we need to ensure that our students are set up for success both in middle school and in high school.”

Vogel has budgeted $1,059,808 for special education out-of-district tuition, which is higher than the $980,398 budgeted for the current fiscal year. She has also budgeted $456,457 for special education transportation.

“As a district, we believe that it is imperative that we provide individual services in the least restrictive environment to the maximum extent that is appropriate in order empower our students to be successful,” said Vogel. “In order to meet students’ learning needs in some circumstances, students need to receive their support outside of the district.”

While the School Department has typically received $250,000 for technology expenses in the town’s capital budget each fiscal year, Vogel agreed to hold off on that request for FY22. She recalled that the district purchased a great deal of technology equipment in addition to increasing each school’s bandwidth to commercial grade with funds from the FY21 capital budget as well as the CARES Act.

“We need to continue to update our Chromebook inventory as part of scheduled replacement,” said Vogel. “We also need to replace very outdated projectors and Smart Boards with flat panels. We also need to maintain our infrastructure, access points and firewall. We understand that the reason why we won’t receive the capital allocation this year is due to the fiscal climate, and we completely understand that. We will still be able to do some of these updates with ESSER funds, but we will not be able to continue to do that in the future without a capital budget allocation.”

Select Board pleased

The Select Board praised the revised plan created by Vogel and Geary.

“You and your entire staff have done a tremendous job this past year under very difficult circumstances,” said Select Board Chairman Dick Dalton. “We were able to get children back into classrooms full-time much sooner than other school districts in the state. I know you and the School Committee had to put up with a lot of frustration from parents, but we got through it. Kudos to you and your team.”

Dalton also thanked Vogel and Geary for keeping him and Town Administrator Rob Dolan informed throughout the budget process.

“It helps us understand where you are coming from and it helps you understand what the town’s limitations are,” said Dalton.

Select Board member Phil Crawford agreed.

“I appreciate you getting this budget ready to present a number that we were looking for,” said Crawford. “You, Tom, Student Services Director Roberta Keane and all of the staff members have done a wonderful job during this pandemic by making sure this school district remains as one of the best in the state. Everyone is very proud of that.”

Vogel said having “open lines of communication” with Town Administrator Rob Dolan and the Select Board was beneficial during the budget process.

“We need to work together in order to do what is best for kids,” said Vogel.

Select Board member Joe Connell asked how much of the school budget is dedicated for salaries.

“I would say just about all of it is salaries,” said Geary. “Everything else for technology and special education is offset somewhere else or is a reduction from somewhere else.”

Then-School Committee Vice Chairman Rich Sjoberg said the district’s educators “have been incredible to work with this entire year.”

“I am so proud to have Kristen as our new leader,” said Sjoberg. “I am looking forward to finishing the year strong.”