While Town Meeting voters were adding to other budgets on Saturday, the school department’s final figure of $22. While Town Meeting voters were adding to other budgets on Saturday, the school department’s final figure of $22.

While Town Meeting voters were adding to other budgets on Saturday, the school department’s final figure of $22.9 million for fiscal year 2005 was commented on, but never amended.

With a crowd of nearly 200 returning after the day’s lunch break, School Committee chairman Carol Love gave a brief update on the past year at the schools, from accolades received by teachers and students to the difficult decisions made for next year’s budget.{sidebar id=4}

Superintendent Eileen Williams followed Love, who received a standing ovation from some in the audience who recognized her last official report as a member of the school committee after 11 years.

Williams said that the FY05 budget was a 2.3 percent reduction from the previous year and a 5.2 percent reduction from the funds they requested, adding that the schools were making no capital budget requests.

“While we are certainly concerned about the state of our facilities and equipment, we placed the priority on the personnel and expenses that support our instructional program on a daily basis,” said Williams.

She also highlighted some parts of the new budget, including increased revenue of $470,565 through fees ranging from one for bus transportation to higher parking, co-curricular and athletic fees.   Williams also discussed a reduction in supervision, instructional and clerical personnel by $521,559.

“This budget reduction, by focusing on administration, clerical and support services, the adjustment of salaries due to retirement and a reduction of expense items maintains to the greatest possible extent instructional programs and class size,” said Williams.  “The loss of the Elementary World Language program is a notable exception.”{sidebar id=1}

After asking for citizens’ support for the budget, Williams received questions from several members of the public.

A majority of the questions related to salaries, including one from John Hamilton of Tremont Street who inquired with the cut of over $520,000 in personnel, if these positions were needed in the first place.  He also asked why there were so many assistant positions in the schools and whether they were overstaffing the administration.

Williams said the cut included $167,000 from administration, including the loss of two cocurricular coordinators and curriculum assistants.  She added that staffing levels at Duxbury High School, for example, needed two assistant principals.

“You have a lot of kids at DHS and a lot of ëraging hormones,’” said Williams.  “This is a time that I’d be concerned with lowering staffing levels.”

Clinton Lane’s Aboud Al-Zaim then inquired about how much the schools spent on administrators versus teachers.  Williams said that 2.76 percent of the budget goes to administration while 80.83 percent is dedicated to instruction.

Al-Zaim, using last week’s Clipper article on town salaries, then inquired why they were spending so much on administrative salaries and why that was an area not being cut.

Business Manager Mickey McGonagle said that adding up the information in the paper was not an adequate strategy to calculate these administrators’ salaries for last year and said with the size of the schools in Duxbury, several administrators were needed for oversight and evaluation.  Later in the meeting, he provided Al-Zaim with information on the range of salaries for administrators.

After further questions on the proposed bus fund and salaries for substitutes, Al-Zaim approached the microphone again, this time trying to reinstate the Elementary World Education program by amending the school budget to add $49,080 from free cash.

School committee member John Magnarelli said that the decision to cut the program was not about money but instruction, pointing out that next year’s instruction would have been for 20 minutes during one day of the week, far below what research shows as beneficial to children at an early age.

“That is not sufficient enough time to make the program worthwhile,” he said.  “If you are going to have a program, you need to do it right or not do it at all.  We are not doing it right, so it should not be part of the budget.”

Al-Zaim’s amendment was defeated and the school’s total budget of $22.9 million was approved by town voters.