Schools brace for tough budget year

Written by Administrator
 | Tuesday, 01 September 2009 19:59

As bad as the municipal budget picture has been, Duxbury Superintendent of Schools Susan Skeiber is warning that we haven’t seen the worst of things.

“FY 11 doesn’t look to be an easy year for budgets,” Skeiber said at last week’s School Committee meeting.

The budget timeline will be similar to last year’s, she told the committee. Principals will have until Sept. 16 to bring their proposed budgets to the administration. There will then be a review by the School Committee, then a public hearing, with the idea of bringing a budget before the town by December.

“I don’t think there’s anything dramatically different from what we’ve been doing for the last two years,” Skeiber said.

She said Town Manager Richard MacDonald and Finance Director John Madden have asked the district to look at a level service budget for fiscal year 2011 (meaning no staff or services are added, but increases in fixed costs like utilities and health insurance are accounted for) as well as a three percent cut from last year’s budget.

Skeiber said there are several factors making next year’s budget a challenge, including a lower than expected reimbursement for special education, called a circuit breaker.

“That is obviously a concern,” said Skeiber. “SPED is always going to be the unknown piece for us.”

School Committee member Anne Ward said despite the problems, the community needs to know the school district has a plan for making ends meet.

“The community needs to know how are we set to weather this crisis,” she said.

Skeiber also updated the committee on the school building feasibility study. At last year’s Town Meeting (and subsequently at the annual election) voters approved a debt exclusion of $200,000 for the middle and high schools. District officials hope the study will tell them if the schools should be rebuilt, renovated or replaced.

Skeiber said the schools have received proposals from 14 firms. The school building committee met and went over those, looking at rating systems, and will interview Ai3, Dorr and Whittier and Mt. Vernon this week.

In other building news, Skeiber reported that the Chandler Elementary School roof replacement is on schedule, the only remaining items are some windows that should be ready by the beginning of school.