Revised budget for Wareham schools eliminates $2 million increase

Dec 6, 2018
The School Committee has reworked its preliminary budget for next year, potentially eliminating the need for a $2 million increase.
At a public hearing on Dec. 3, Business Administrator Susan Owen announced that the originally presented $31,178,013 had been trimmed to $29,262,246 with the help of additional revenue sources and reduced staff requests.

Superintendent Dr. Kimberly Shaver-Hood presented the budget alongside Owen, explaining that the initial numbers given in November were based entirely off requests received from teachers and principals.

Shaver-Hood said that the School Committee, which usually revises the initial budget, made a decision to present the requests as they were given. This was done to better illustrate the needs of the schools and where cuts might be made going forward, she said.

“It’s very different from what we’ve done in the past,” Shaver-Hood explained. “But we wanted to share the full story.”

In total, five requested positions for new, full-time staff were removed to lower the school’s proposed budget. These included requests for two permanent substitutes, two foreign language teachers and one central office employee. A request for a part-time assistant principal was also removed.

“We aren’t planning on cutting any existing jobs,” Owen said. “And all seven requests for special ed teachers are still included the budget.”

As for additional revenue, Owen said the schools would draw upon accounts which are usually left in reserve. This includes the schools’ Special Education Stabilization Fund and their Circuit Breaker for fiscal year 2019. The circuit breaker provides state reimbursement to school districts for the cost of individual special education students.

Owen noted that each of Wareham’s schools would also see a reduction of $25,000 from their individual budgets.

“It seems that almost every year, we see a ‘want’ budget from the schools,” said Selectmen Peter Teitelbaum. “And that’s not feasible.”

Finance Chair Bernard Pigeon agreed, backing an idea for the school system and the town to enter a “revenue sharing agreement” of some kind going forward.

Selectman Alan Slavin, who was unable to attend the hearing, echoed Teitelbaum and Pigeon’s sentiments in a letter which was read aloud. 

School labor contracts have to fall in line with other town departments,” Slavin said. “We can not simply give everyone what they want.”

The schools’ revised budget is still a long way from finalization and will be voted on by the School Committee at its Dec. 20 meeting, set for 7 p.m. in the Wareham Middle School auditorium.

If approved, the budget will then go before Selectmen for review. Ultimately, the school budget must be approved by voters at Town Meeting in the spring.