LYNNFIELD — The Select Board expressed its support for the School Department’s proposed operating budget for fiscal year 2024 during last week’s meeting.

The School Department has requested a $29,656,549 operating budget for FY24, which represents a 4 percent increase over FY23’s $28,515,911 spending plan.

Superintendent Kristen Vogel said the FY24 budget aligns with the School Department’s strategic plan, school improvement plans, vision statement and mission statement.

“Everything aligns with each other,” said Vogel.

Vogel noted there are no new positions in the proposed FY24 spending proposal. There were no new positions included in the FY23 budget as well.

“Our goal is to provide a fiscally responsible (budget) that provides level service at a minimum,” said Vogel. “Our budget provides for the needs for all of our students and our special education students. This budget is not only fiscally responsible for the town, but also the schools.”

The School Department has budgeted $1,923,474 for special education out-of-district tuition in FY24, which is higher than FY23’s $1,602,650 appropriation. The district has budgeted $354,486 for special education out-of-district transportation in FY24, which is less than FY23’s $385,009 allocation.

Vogel said the state’s Operational Services Division (OSD), which develops tuition prices for more than 200 approved special education programs in 100 private schools, has set a 14 percent increase for special education out-of-district tuition in FY24.

“This has come true,” said Vogel. “We did receive the tuition increase from private schools, and they were all 14 percent for next year. That is the equivalent of $469,000 in additional monies just for the town of Lynnfield.”

Vogel and other superintendents from across the state have sent letters to Gov. Maura Healey that requested additional financial support to help finance the special education tuition cost increase.

“Traditionally in a normal budget year, we would budget a 2 percent increase for out-of-district tuitions,” said Vogel. “Going to 14 percent is something that none of us could have anticipated. We asked the governor for 12 percent relief due to this increase. We shall wait and see.”

Vogel said the proposed spending plan will ensure the class size guidelines for the elementary and middle schools are maintained.

“We are maintaining level services for all Lynnfield students,” said Vogel.

Vogel said school officials conducted a “line item analysis to maximize resources” while the FY24 budget was being developed.

“We examined grants to determine the most effective use to offset our budget,” said Vogel. “We reviewed building schedules and we looked at class sizes for efficiencies, particularly at the upper grades. We went deep into our operating budget to find efficiencies, and we do have to reallocate resources.”

Vogel also said she and Assistant Superintendent of Finance and Operations Tom Geary worked closely with Town Administrator Rob Dolan while the FY24 budget was being created.

“We collaborated with the town administrator on our budget needs, and had conversations about available town revenues,” said Vogel.

Vogel recalled that 85.3 percent of the School Department’s FY24 budget is for salaries. Additionally, she said 6.4 percent of the spending plan will be spent on special education out-of-district tuition while 1.2 percent will be used for out-of-district transportation. She said the remaining 7.2 percent of the budget will be spent on non-salary expenses.

“We really feel that this budget reflects what is needed to support all of our students,” said Vogel. “We continue to see the social-emotional and academic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in our schools and in our classrooms. This fiscally responsible budget supports our students and teachers in this important time.”

Capital budget

The School Department has requested a $394,000 capital budget for FY24.

Similar to previous fiscal years, the School Department has requested $250,000 for technology expenses.

The School Department has also requested $144,000 for facility upgrades and curriculum materials. Vogel noted that some of the funds will be used to upgrade the gymnasium floors at Lynnfield Middle School and Lynnfield High School. She also said six basketball hoops at the high school need to be replaced. She also said a divider needs to be installed at an existing classroom at the middle school in order to create a new classroom.

Vogel said a portion of the second capital budget request will be used to purchase geodes for the Wit and Wisdom early literacy instruction program that is being used at the elementary schools.

“We piloted a new early literacy program called Wit and Wisdom two years ago,” said Vogel. “This year, we are implementing it in grades K-4. Continuing this work requires an investment on our part. It’s a program that has been highly rated by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. It is an absolutely incredible literacy program. This is a one-time purchase for each grade level.”

Board backs plan

Chairman Phil Crawford thanked Vogel for giving the FY24 school budget presentation to the Select Board.

“I know you had to make some tough decisions over the last couple of months to get the budget down to a number that we could work with fiscally and is sustainable,” said Crawford. “It’s great.”

Select Board member Joe Connell said he watched

Vogel’s recent budget presentation to the School Committee, and was impressed by how she went over the spending plan in “great detail.” He said the COVID-19 pandemic has created “long-term effects on our students,” and said the budget looks to address the pandemic’s impact.

Select Board member Dick Dalton thanked Vogel and Geary for working closely with town officials throughout the budget process.

“It’s important to emphasize the collaboration that goes on between the school district and the town administrator,” said Dalton. “This is on an ongoing basis, and was just not a meeting on the budget. That collaboration makes this whole process so much easier.”

Dalton said the School Department’s FY24 budget book is “very detailed.” He recalled that the School Committee and Lynnfield Teachers Association came to an agreement on a three-year teachers’ contract last year, where educators will be receiving a 2 percent raise in each year of the contract. Fiscal year 2024 will be the second year of the collective bargaining agreement (CBA).

“We ended up with a very reasonable CBA when you look at the marketplace in the Northeast,” said Dalton. “I am very satisfied that this is a fiscally responsible budget.”

Crawford asked Patrice Lane resident Patricia Campbell, a vocal critic of the School Department, if she had any questions about the FY24 budget.

“There is not enough detail for me to ask anything,” said Campbell in response.

Geary, School Committee Chair Rich Sjoberg and School Committee Vice Chair Stacy Dahlstedt also attended the Select Board’s meeting to show their support for the FY24 spending plan.

“I appreciate all of their help in this process along with the leadership team for Lynnfield Public Schools,” said Vogel. “Everyone worked really hard since last October to get to where we are.”