5-year plan unveiled
At the annual budget hearing for next Thursday, Feb. 28, the public will have its second look at a proposed plan for fiscal 2020 of $76,695,743, a 6-percent increase from the current year.
The School Committee had its first look on Feb. 14 and heard a preliminary report on Superintendent Kathleen Bodie's budget priorities.
In addition that night, the committee heard member Len Kardon's report on a possible five-year plan for the schools and an update on the Arlington High School rebuild. The meeting was unusually short because the committee held a closed session at the beginning to discuss Bodie’s contract and another at the end to discuss collective-bargaining contracts.
Bodie began her presentation of the proposed budget by presenting the final list of priorities to be funded, decided in consultation with teachers and other administrators. She described it as “a difficult process since there were so many competing needs.”
4 priority categories
Those needs given budget priority were divided into four categories: 1.) enrollment growth, class-size mitigation, addressing achievement gaps; 2.) creating safe and supportive schools; 3.) improvement instruction and; 4.) attract and develop talented staff.
Bodie saw addressing the needs caused by enrollment growth as a top priority. In the last three years, she reported, the school population has grown by almost 700 students, and such a significant increase has “stretched the resources” of the Arlington public schools.
The enrollment growth, she continued, “was felt more at the elementary level “and resources were disproportionately allocated to these schools." She reported that last year the high school graduated 313 students, and the entering kindergarten class was 585.
This coming year, she said, the budget aims for more balance between the elementary and secondary schools. She recommended that the eighth-grade class at the Ottoson be given an another half cluster, which would result in four clusters for both the seventh and eighth grade.
With the proposed budget the high school, suffering from over enrolled classes and dearth of electives, will receive 6.0 FTE in added staff.
In addition to addressing enrollment, Bodie’s budget would purchase more materials for the new state-mandated eighth-grade civic course, improve libraries and try to solve “one of the most glaring needs we have,” by increasing salaries for substitute teachers.
Chief Financial Officer Michael Mason concluded the budget presentation by reviewing the anticipated increase in revenues available to the Arlington public schools of 6.08 percent, which Bodie’s proposed budget falls within.
Summary FY19 budget FY20 Proposed Budget Change Percent
Town appropriation: $66,253,022 $70,375,639 $4,122,617 6.22%
Grants: $2,474,010 $2,474,010 - 0.00%
Reimbursements: $3,473,589 $3,846,094 $372,505 10.72%
TOTAL: $72,303,119 $76,695,743 $4,392,624 6.08%
Summary of proposed changes in the FY20 budget
Net Increase in Revenue: $4,392,624
Contractual/Salary Increases: $2,555,000
Fixed and Mandated Costs: $575,000
Total Proposed Increases: $1,262,624
Following the Feb. 28 hearing, the next step in the budget process will be a final School Committee vote March 14. Later in March, the town Finance Committee reviews the budget, and in April Town Meeting will vote to approve the final budget.
Kardon explains draft of 5-year plan
As the chair of the budget subcommittee, Kardon presented a draft of a five-year plan to chart the outstanding needs of the Arlington schools and the associated costs. Although not yet in narrative form, he furnished an outline of needs over five years and charts with the projected costs.
Similar to the Bodie’s proposed budget for next year, the five-year needs for the schools are divided into categories with their total costs over the period: Enrollment growth ($4,499,500); close achievement gap ($2,513,000); attract and develop talented staff ($1,350,000); improve instruction for students ($1,115,000); Safe and supportive schools ($438,000).
While Bode cited enrollment growth over the last three years as totaling almost 700 students, Kardon projected growth in the next five years exceeded 600 students. With this further growth, the five-year plan projects the need for not only added classroom teachers and specialist teachers but also additional staff for student support and administrative support.
Sources of funding for these needs, Kardon suggested, might come from the state Chapter 70 funds, the town-enrollment growth factor or money from the town operating override.
Bodie's update on AHS rebuild
Now that the total budget is fixed at $291.4 million, Bodie reported that it would be submitted to the Mass. School Building Authority and then there will be some follow-up documentation over the next month and a half.
The Arlington High Building Committee voted unanimously Feb. 19 to authorize Skanska, the project manager, to submit the schematic designs to the state agency on behalf of the district.
The vote to consider a debt exclusion for the project is expected to be Tuesday, June 11.
If approved, the town will then issue a request for proposals for a construction contractor. When hired, the contractor may make a few more adjustments as the project goes into a year of design and development. According to the current schedule, construction would start in 2020, with completion expected in 2024.
This news summary by YourArlington freelancer Jo Anne Preston was published Friday, Feb. 22, 2019.
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