Finance Chair: Proposed budget increase for Wareham schools beyond unrealistic’
A presentation of the school system’s budget for fiscal year 2020 drew criticism on Thursday from Finance Committee Chair Bernard Pigeon who stated that a proposed $2 million increase was “beyond unrealistic.”
The potential increase would give Wareham schools a budget of $31,178,013, up 7.43 percent from last year’s $29,022,739.
“I understand what the needs of our schools are,” Pigeon said at the Nov. 29 School Committee meeting. “But the reality of our town is far different. It’s a stone wall.”
With an understaffed police department and a newly recertified library among other things, Pigeon said that Wareham did not have the financial wherewithal to grant such an increase to the school system.
Town Administrator Derek Sullivan echoed Pigeon’s concerns, stating that the town’s new net revenue was estimated at $346,000 after expenses.
The finalization of the school system’s budget traditionally takes place over the course of several months with members of the School Committee and town officials working together toward a consensus.
School Committee Chair Joyce Bacchiocchi said the initial budget presented each year is usually whittled down from the numbers the committee first receives from teachers and school district leaders.
This year, the committee chose to present the budget as it was requested.
“These numbers haven’t been reduced at all,” Bacchiocchi explained. “Our hope is that, by starting out with this way, we can better illustrate where and how cuts occurred.”
Business Manager Susan Owen noted that the current proposed increase includes $1.2 million to cover contractually obligated salaries for teachers.
“The needs of our students haven’t changed,” Owen said. “And knowing that we have negotiated salary increases ups the difficulty.”
Nonetheless, Owen said, the budget would be returning to the School Committee table.
“I’m hopeful that we can collaborate with the town and find creative solutions,” said Superintendent Dr. Kimberly Shaver-Hood.
Copies of the proposed budget are available to the public during regular office hours in the Office of the Superintendent of Schools and online.
A public hearing on the budget will take place Dec. 6 in the Wareham Middle School Auditorium at 7 p.m. All are welcome to attend.