WEST NEWBURY – The School Committee unanimously approved a budget of $47,846,000 for the coming school year on Tuesday, May 9. The Committee had requested an additional $1.34 million in spending to cover an ongoing structural deficit between state funding and the actual cost of services.
Superintendent Justin Bartholomew and the Pentucket Regional School Committee share an update about the District’s 2022-2023 budget, and the impact it will have on students, staff, and faculty.
The District sought increased funding through a Proposition 2 ½ override, which voters in Groveland and Merrimac did not approve.
To close a $1.34 million gap, the School Committee approved Superintendent Bartholomew’s recommended cuts:
General expenses ($528,364)
Reduce HS/MS supplies, $45,864
Stop paying for field trips in Grades 6 and 7, $28,000
• Reduce Paraeducators positions by two, $40,000
• Reduce athletic teams to two male and two female teams per sport, $25,000
• Discontinue a percussion contract, $24,500
• Do not hire a human resources manager, $115,000
• Reduced the number of special education teachers from six to four, $120,000
• Do not hire Tech Repair or Tech Theater support, $85,000
• Eliminate special education coordinator days during the summer, $45,000
Increased fees ($325,950)
• Increase before-school and after-school program fees by $50 per session, or $110 for both sessions, $160,000
• Double athletic fees in effect in the 2020-2021 school year, and eliminate family cap, in the 2022-2023 school year only, $105,950 (Students who have an economic hardship would still be eligible for a waiver.)
• Eliminate one bus route, $60,000
Staff reductions ($485,686)
• Eliminate one nurse position
• Eliminate 1.2 English Language Arts positions (Middle-High School)
• Eliminate one Math teaching position (Middle-High School)
• Eliminate one Science teaching position (Middle-High School)
• Eliminate one Visual Arts teaching position (Middle-High School)
• Eliminate a .7 Performing Arts teaching position (Middle-High School)
• Eliminate one Physical Education/Wellness teaching position (Middle-High School)
• Reduce Art teaching position at Page Elementary School from 1.0 to 0.6
• No Library/Media Aide at Bagnall Elementary School
• Eliminate one elementary teaching position each at Bagnall Elementary School and Sweetsir Elementary School
“None of this is fair. None of this is good, but it’s where we are,” Superintendent Bartholomew said.
Increased fees and staffing cuts were spread across the District, while attempting to protect elementary grades where development of health, wellness and interpersonal skills are especially critical.
Committee members concurred with the recommendation to not seek a smaller override. A second override would mean a larger number of teachers would receive notification of possible non-renewal on Friday, and create great uncertainty across the District into July.
The spending gap is being driven by a series of factors, including a significant decrease in state funding:
• Student transportation costs will increase by more than $500,000 next year. The state does not follow its obligation to fully fund regional school transportation, and actually is cutting Pentucket’s allocation by $144,000 next year.
• Pentucket will receive just $67,500 in additional Chapter 70 money.
• While the state promotes its $1.5 billion Student Opportunity Act, the District will receive only $58,000 from the Act next year.
Superintendent Bartholomew and Committee Chair Christopher Markuns of Merrimac recommended that residents and town officials begin working together immediately to find funding solutions for the 2023-2024 budget.
“The state is swimming in extra money, and we’re cutting $1.34 million,” Superintendent Bartholomew said. “The funding formula does not work.”