School District defends 2.6 percent school budget increase
By Christian Avard
Staff Writer | January 24,2013
SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield School Board has approved a budget to present to voters on Town Meeting Day.
The proposed budget for 2014 was $28.3 million, but the board approved an additional $123,700 at Tuesday’s meeting per the request of administrators.
Voters will decide March 5 whether to approve a $28.4 million budget which represents a 2.6 percent increase from this year’s $27.6 million budget.
Included in the budget is $36,670 for a full-time PowerSchool technician. PowerSchool is a web-based student information system and the newly-hired technician will administer the program.
The district requested the line item because the state could not fund the position, according to Assistant Superintendent Zach McLaughlin. The PowerSchool technician’s estimated salary is $73,340 and $36,670 will cover half of the amount. The remainder will come from Springfield High School and Riverside Middle School computer programs, a curriculum fund and unemployment compensation premiums cuts. McLaughlin said the position is vital for organizing the district’s data programming.
“We need to get to the point where (the district) can make data-based decisions. We’re not there yet,” McLaughlin said. “We need to get our data system in order and train (faculty and staff) on to how to look at data, what’s useful, how does it affect their teaching, and how does it measure in effectiveness? This is a first step for us.”
The board also approved an $87,000 reserve fund for contract negotiations with school district paraprofessionals. The board originally cut $130,000 from the fund at a Jan. 2 meeting, but the board put $87,000 back in the fund Tuesday to cover the negotiations.
School Board Vice Chairwoman Jeanice Garfield said the funds were necessary in order to retain staff.
“The support staff is crucial to the work we do in the schools. It affects an awful a lot of people,” she said.
One budget committee member questioned the budget approval. Mike Griffin said Gov. Peter Shumlin informed school boards across the state not to exceed school budget increases of 2 percent.
Administrators were aware of Shumlin’s concerns but they still defended the approved budget. School Board Chairman Scott Adnams said cutting 0.6 percent from the budget is easier said than done.
“I’m just not sure where else would you tighten the budget without it affecting the education of the kids,” Adnams said.
Superintendent Frank Perotti said the district is doing much better compared to other districts across the state.
“Budgets across the state are coming in at the 4- to 5-percent range. The administration, budget committee and School Board cut approximately $2 million from the budget. I think we’re doing pretty well,” he said.
In other news, the board approved an article to buy a property at 47 Union St. The property is located next to Union Street Elementary School.
The purpose of the purchase is to build additional parking at the school, according to Steve Hier, director of fiscal services. Parking is limited at Union Street School and purchasing the property would enable the district to pursue the project. Hier said the project would cost the taxpayers nothing, but voters would need to approve the transaction on Town Meeting Day.
The school budget will be printed in the upcoming town report. A publication date has not been determined.