Published in the February 24, 2016 edition


WAKEFIELD — The School Department will request a Fiscal Year 2017 budget of $36,176,170, which includes a $1,389,085 (3.99 percent) increase over the current year’s budget.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Kim Smith presented the budget to the School Committee last night. A public hearing on the budget is scheduled for March 8 at 7 p.m. at the WCAT Studios on Hemlock Road.
When the School Department was given a one-time 11.4 percent budget increase in last year’s FY’16 budget, it was with the understanding that the schools would come in with budget increases of no more than 4 percent in each of the next few years. The FY’17 proposed School Department budget bumps right up against that limit.
The lion’s share of the budget increase is in the area of salaries. A $1,335,280 increase is requested in that “salaries” line item. A $233,003 increase is proposed in the area of Special Education. Another $166,265 increase is requested for utilities. Smaller increases are proposed in the areas of instructional technology, new positions, contractual services, regular day transportation, homeless transportation, furniture, professional development and travel.
Smith pointed out that several areas of the budget were cut and those monies reallocated to other areas of need. For example $80,842 in paper and supplies was cut and infused into technology. Another $35,624 was cut from the instructional support staff to fund a part-time moderate special needs, Reading or Intervention teacher to support Tier 1 instruction.
In terms of new revenues, Smith cited $24,600 from a partnership with Lesley University whereby Lesley uses the Galvin Middle School as a location to teach some of its courses. That money, Smith said, can help offset some of the newly added social, emotional and behavioral health support services.
Smith also anticipated a $374,500 increase in Circuit Breaker funding, which she said would offset Special Education increases in tuitions, transportation and legal services.
She also reminded the School Committee of the decision to raise tuitions at the Doyle Early Childhood Center. The resulting approximately $80,000 would help to make the Doyle more self-sufficient, Smith said.
In terms of additions to the FY’17 budget, Smith pointed to an added counselor at the Galvin Middle School for a cost of $58,136. The addition of another $13,174 is proposed for a 0.2 FTE music teacher at the Doyle. Smith proposed adding another $15,000 to begin a five-year plan for furniture replacement, particularly at the older schools.
Smith anticipated a significant increase in state Chapter 70 funding. Preliminary estimates of $5,698,785 in Chapter 70 funding would represent an increase of $297,418. Smith attributed the Chapter 70 increase to an enrollment spike of 103 pupils district-wide from 3,374 to 3,477 along with an increase of $38 in the per pupil allocation from $1,600 to $1,638.
The increase in enrollments, Smith speculated, was attributable to the town’s investment in Early Childhood Education and the new Galvin Middle School plus the good reputation of the Wakefield public schools in general.
Looking beyond the FY’17 budget, Smith outlined what she saw as the future needs of the district. Over the next several years, she called for adding one full-time K-4 math coach, two K-4 technology/art specialists, one fifth-grade teacher at the Galvin, a full-time Social Studies Curriculum Coordinator for grades 5-12, one full-time world language coordinator for grades 5-12, one full-time English language learners coordinator and a half-time district data analyst.
Smith said that she was proud of the proposed FY’17 budget, calling it “fiscally responsible.” She said that it reflected what the Wakefield public schools need in order to continue on a trajectory of excellence.
She said that the budget was driven by the Wakefield Public Schools Educational Strategy as well as the need to maintain optimum class sizes and to hire, develop and retain quality teachers. The budget, she said, reflected the voices of school staff, parents and the community.
Following the public hearing on the budget on March 8, the next step will be a School Committee vote on March 22. After that come budget presentations to the Board of Selectmen and the School Committee prior to a vote at Annual Town Meeting in May.