In Duxbury, the superintendent has historically frozen the school budget around March, according to Supt. Susan Skeiber. In Duxbury, the superintendent has historically frozen the school budget around March, according to Supt. Susan Skeiber.

This year, increases in the special education budget and legal fees led Skeiber to freeze the budget at the end of October.

Skeiber said there were significant increases in a couple of areas of the special education budget that led to the need for the freeze.

"I see it as being fiscally responsible," she said. "It's one means to stay in the budget and reduce what looks to be a deficit."

Freezing the budget has no effect on employee salaries and benefits and has no impact on special education services, Skeiber said.

If a student came into the district with special education requirements, Skeiber said, the district would address the needs.

"It would not be because we would have to, but because we want to do what is good for the child," Skeiber said.

What the budget freeze does mean is that when someone in the schools wants to make a purchase, they must first clear it with the building principal and then with the superintendent.

"We would have to determine if it is something we need or something we can live without," said Skeiber. "If it's a piece of equipment, we would have to ask if we should replace it or can we repair it."

As soon as the administration realized there was the possibility of running a deficit, Skeiber said it would have been irresponsible to continue spending in areas where there was an opportunity to save money.

Skeiber and Special Education Director Deborah Corvini said there are several factors driving the increase in the special education budget this year.

Out-of-district tuitions for special education students were higher than anticipated, Skeiber said. Coupled with the higher out-of-district costs was the fact that Duxbury got less in circuit breaker state aid than anticipated.

A recent state audit, however, showed that the town should be entitled to circuit breaker funds closer to what was originally budgeted, Skeiber said.

The district is also facing increased contracted special education costs for occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech and language programs.

"There have also been increases in our summer programs," said Skeiber. "All of this has contributed to spending more in this area than had been budgeted for."

When it comes to legal fees, Corvini said she tries to be prudent when it comes to calling in an attorney.

"My goal is to try to resolve issues at the district level with no attorney," she said. If an issue goes to the hearing level, or if a parent brings an attorney to a meeting, Corvini said the district needs to have legal representation.

"If a parent brings an advisor to a team meeting, we do not need an attorney," she said. "We only bring in an attorney if a parent brings in an attorney."

One area where the schools have been able to keep costs down is in the energy budget. Skeiber praised Business Manager Mickey McGonagle and Barbara Bartlett in the business office for putting energy management plans into place.

"We've had savings in that area over what was budgeted," Skeiber said.