Wareham School Committee recommends $29 million budget for upcoming fiscal year

Dec 20, 2018

School Committee members are proposing a $29,262,246 budget for fiscal year 2020, which marks a slight increase – roughly 1.5 percent – compared to the current budget. Members unanimously approved the draft budget on Thursday night.

That figure is now set to go before Selectmen for review. Ultimately, the school budget must be approved by voters at the Spring Town Meeting.

Wareham Public Schools Business Manager Susan Owen said officials worked to keep costs down while maintaining educational standards as best they could.

“We didn’t reduce any positions,” said Owen. “We didn’t add any, either.”

She noted school officials will ask the town for roughly $200,000, which is what has already been earmarked from municipal revenue for the schools.

As for the additional revenue, Owen said the schools would draw upon accounts which are usually left in reserve. This includes the 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.

The modest increase follows a November vote where residents approved spending $40 million for a new school to combine Decas Elementary and the now closed Minot Forest Elementary. The approval required property taxes be raised 82 cents per $1,000 of a property’s assessed value annually. In total, the new school is estimated to cost $90 million.

This recommended budget is less than the one initially presented to the School Committee earlier this year, eliminating the need for a $2 million increase.

At a public hearing on Dec. 3, Owen said 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. Shaver-Hood explained 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.