By DAN TOMASELLO
NORTH READING — The School Committee is scheduled to approve the recommended fiscal year 2016 school budget on Monday, April 27.
The proposed modified level services school budget unveiled by Superintendent of Schools Jon Bernard last month totals $27,886,226, representing a 4.2 percent increase over FY’15’s budget of $26,764,015. While the school budget for FY’16 is scheduled to be approved on April 27, the school department is still facing a $407,564 budget gap that needs to be closed.
School Committee member Mel Webster said he supports approving the proposed FY’16 budget next Monday. He said the proposed school budget seeks to address a number of different areas, including large class sizes at North Reading High School
“I plan to support this budget on April 27 even though it is $407,564 out of balance right now,” said Webster. “We have some potential cuts we can make but it’s my belief we should wait as long as we can to see if there is any more money that is going to become available. I don’t want to make cuts and then have money become available.”
School Committee Chairman Jerry Venezia said he thought the School Committee’s recent public hearing on the FY’16 budget “went very well.” He said it’s “pretty clear” large class sizes at the high school need to be addressed, which has become a growing concern for school officials, parents and community members. He also said the school department needs to move forward with its technology initiatives.
Venezia said there is still enough time between April 27 and Town Meeting on June 1 to find “additional revenues” to close the budget gap.
“I don’t want to cut this budget until we have to,” said Venezia.
Webster said the School Committee has the option to make budget cuts the night of Town Meeting on June 1 if the school board runs out of options.
Venezia also noted there are two more Finance Planning Team meetings before Town Meeting. He said the School Committee has developed positive working relationships with local officials, including the Board of Selectmen and Finance Committee, because of the Finance Planning Team.
“We are going to work on this right up until Town Meeting,” said Venezia.