The School Committee still has some work to do on the proposed budget for the next school year, with the possibility that the district could see some cuts in services.

The School Committee still has some work to do on the proposed budget for the next school year, with the possibility that the district could see some cuts in services.

There's a gap of about $600,000 between the proposed $27.3 million school budget presented by Supt. Susan Skeiber in October, and the $26.7 million set aside for education in Town Manager Richard MacDonald's $54.1 million budget.

"There are still some gaps in the numbers that we are working on and will continue to work on," said School Committee member Anne Ward. "On the school side, we're still working on providing a level service budget."

At Wednesday's School Committee meeting, the board held off on taking a vote on the budget figure because committee member John Magnarelli and Chairman George Cipolletti were not present.

The budget presented by Skeiber in October is $1.7 million higher than the current budget, with nearly $1 million of that amount for contracted services such as pay raises.

An additional $517,000 was added to the budget for increased special education costs, and just over $100,000 has been added to hire new teachers to cover increased enrollment estimates.

Because of increased enrollment, Skeiber is looking to add one additional teacher each at the Alden School and the middle and high schools, as well as one additional special education teacher. Lower attendance estimates for the Chandler School, however, allow for two less teachers at that school.

The budget crunch facing the school department is part of a bigger problem both the town and other communities throughout the state are facing, Skeiber said.

"Duxbury as stretched revenues about as far as possible, to the point where there is a system-wide breakdown," Skeiber said. "The reality is that everything on the revenue side is not breaking in Duxbury's favor."

"There's going to have to be a reduction in services or a Proposition 21/2 override," she said. "That's the reality we're facing."

The root causes of the budget crunch include increasing enrollment and health insurance and special education costs, Skeiber said.

None of the causes are unique to Duxbury, she said.

"Since 2004, the special education budget has grown by over 33 percent to $4 million," Skeiber said. "That represents 15 percent of the school budget."

Reasons for the increase in the special education budget include a better ability to diagnosis students with disabilities and place them in appropriate programs and the lack of funding for state-mandated programs.

The town and the schools are also working on a list of items to be included in a debt exclusion article for capital items. The one-time additional tax increase requires a 2/3 vote at Town Meeting as well as approval at the ballot box.

Currently, Ward said, the schools have a $1.2 million list of capital items it would like to see approved. Ward said it's unlikely all of those items will make it onto the debt exclusion article.

"We'll have to prioritize the list so we have a final number for those capital items," she said.

Money for textbooks and technology make up most of the capital items list. Skeiber's pulled all of the funding for those two items out of the operating budget and placed them in the capital budget.

During the public comment portion of the School Committee meeting, Colleen Brayer asked what would happen if the debt exclusion fails at Town Meeting or the ballot box.

"We're still going to need those textbooks," she said. "Is there a plan if that happens?"

"That's the part we're continuing to work on," Skeiber said.

If the article does fail, Ward said, the School Committee will have some hard choices to make.