By Matthew Robare
The Saugus School Committee delivered its Fiscal Year 2014 budget recommendations to Town Manager Scott Crabtree last Friday. The fiscal year 2013 budget was $25,610,250—itself $100,000 less than asked for. The fiscal year 2014 budget contains a level service recommendation of $26,944,117 and fully funded recommendation of $27,772,442.
“We made it very clear we need that in order to make the level service and meet critical education needs,” said Executive Director of Finance and Operations Pola Andrews.
Most of the increase in the budget comes from salaries, apart from a $60,000 increase for busing costs. According to School Committee Member Arthur Grabowski, the salary increases are from contractual obligations.
“It’s unfortunate that our budget is 80–85 percent salaries for personnel and that leaves only 15 percent to do everything else we need to do—and even those costs are increasing,” said Grabowski.
The smallest increase was for the Ballard Early Childhood Center, which went up by only about $10,000. The Lynnhurst, Oaklandvale, Veterans Memorial, and Waybright Elementary Schools saw their personnel budgetary needs increase between about $100,000 and $200,000 each. The Belmonte Middle School’s budget went up by about $200,000, with an additional nearly $20,000 increase for equipment. Saugus High School’s personnel budget was increased from $5,281,228 to $5,688,581, or around $400,000, while their equipment budget increased by over $150,000. The administration budget actually saw a decrease by about $15,000 for equipment, but an increase of nearly $80,000 for personnel. Personnel funding in the Instructional Fund increased by nearly $100,000, while the equipment budget fell by around $80,000. Special Education saw personnel increases to the tune of $220,000 and equipment increases of approximately $500,000.
It’s a two-edged sword, because as a school committee we have to advocate for a budget that will bring the school district along, but it’s an unfortunate circumstance that it’s a budget the town will have a hard time to fund fully” Grabowski said. “I realize that there are going to have to be some accommodations made, but we as a school committee have to advocate for the full funding—but $2 million is pie in the sky. We can’t expect the town to not be able to fund its other operations at our expense. I think that the level service budget is a good figure, but even that’s a million more than what we got last year. I would hope that the town will do everything they can to try and fund that to the fullest extent that they can, because we need those funds to move along.”
Town Manager Scott Crabtree and School Committee Chairman Wendy Reed were unavailable to comment on the budget.
According to the FY’14 budget timeline on the school district home page, the town manager will present the school committee’s recommendations to the board of selectmen on February 1.