Shave off $325,547 from original proposal

Published May 9, 2019


NORTH READING — The School Committee approved the updated fiscal year 2020 (FY20) budget proposal presented by Director of Finance and Operations Michael Connelly at its April 29 meeting.

The updated budget presented by Connelly totaled $31,757,773, representing a 3.3 percent increase over the FY19 budget and a significant reduction from the 4.3 percent increase recommended at the public hearing.

“This budget gap, based on what we previously recommended at the public hearing, was just about one percent and that’s $325,547, so that is the amount we were tasked with at the workshop, and the administration presented this plan that essentially (illustrates) changes to our original budget recommendation, and would essentially balance the fiscal year 2020 school budget,” Connelly said.

Changes from the original recommended budget included the elimination of the 1.0 full time equivalent (FTE) Floater Custodian and the 1.0 FTE Facilities Engineer.

“These are certainly two positions that we would love to have on staff. We did feel there was an operational need for them, but they didn’t take precedent over the level services adjustments and the enrollment needs at the kindergarten level,” Connelly said.

Connelly noted additional funds in the area of special education closed the budget gap by $250,936.

“We went through some changes in our revenue assumptions that certainly made the gap less of a number to address, and the first one was savings we had identified over the last several weeks through our special education out-of-district tuitions, as well as additional revenue that we will be receiving through the state’s circuit breaker extraordinary relief program,” Connelly said.

Connelly thanked Director of Student Services Cynthia Conant for her hard work in identifying areas of savings.

“I’m going to credit Cynthia Conant and Student Services (for) being forward thinking and being aggressive in looking at all additional revenue that might be available to the district,” Connelly said. “If it were not for that additional revenue, we would be having a much more difficult conversation this evening.”

According to Connelly, full day kindergarten tuition also helped to close the gap. Increased enrollment will yield roughly $45,000 for the district.

Connelly stated that the new budget includes funds to meet all contractual obligations with employees and unions, and also includes funds to meet the operational needs of all school campuses.

Increased staffing will meet the needs of all students, maintain appropriate student/teacher ratios, advance academic programming, and provide full day kindergarten for all families who wish to participate, according to Connelly.

Connelly did caution that there will be some risk involved in decreasing the budget, as the potential exists for increased special education costs, maintenance costs, and food service costs.

“There’s always some volatility with any budget, especially a budget of a little under $32 million,” Connelly said. “The administration does feel that the district is in a better position to address unforeseen costs than it has been in recent years.”

School Committee Chairman Janene Imbriano thanked Connelly for all of his efforts in preparing the FY20 budget.

“I would second the chair’s comments thanking you, and Cynthia, and everyone for all the work on this,” Committee member Rich McGowan said.

Superintendent Jon Bernard acknowledged the work of the Administrative Council, as well as the work of Imbriano and Committee Vice Chairman Scott Buckley.

“I want to acknowledge the efforts (of the Administrative Council) too, and I also want to call out the work of the chairman and the vice chairman for their representation of the committee on the Finance Planning Team this year. You were both fairly new to that work. I do think that you did a very good job of passionately speaking about what the goals of the district are on behalf of the school committee,” Bernard said. “I think everybody’s efforts are really to be commended.”