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School Committee holds FY18 budget hearing

Pictured above is the Wayland Town Building. WSPN's Charlie Moore and Jay Abdella summarize the WPS Superintendent of Schools search process.

Credit: Daderot [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Pictured above is the Wayland Town Building. WSPN's Charlie Moore and Jay Abdella summarize the WPS Superintendent of Schools search process.

Matt Karle

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On March 6, members of the Wayland School Committee met at the Wayland Town Building to finalize their proposal of the 2017-2018 (FY18) school budget. In an extensive 150 minute hearing, which is available to watch in its entirety on WayCam, the Committee members addressed the fine details of their proposal and the present concerns of the public. The proposal will be brought to town meeting on April 2 for confirmation. Here’s everything you should know:

In keeping with tradition, the School Committee set goals in order to outline their intentions with the budget. Members mentioned a variety of objectives, but the goal most emphasized in prefacing their budget amendment was their dedication to “fully support the academic and social/emotional growth of our students, while respecting the fiscal restraints facing Wayland residents.”

Before unveiling the final proposal, the Committee presented a summary of the process they undertook to reach the result. This process began with receiving the Finance Committee’s guideline for budget changes: a maximum increase of 2.5 percent over the 2016-2017 (FY17) budget, which rests at an estimated $37,722,833.

After this step, the committee developed enrollment projections, which predicted significant increases at Claypit Hill and the high school, minor decreases at Happy Hollow and Loker, and a significant decrease at the middle school – accumulating a net yield of 21 additional students in the district. They met with the principals of each school during planning and conducted community outreach meetings.

After review of the superintendent’s recommended budget and evaluation of any unmet needs not included in the recommendation, they arrived at their own recommended budget, by “discussing and debating merits of budget components and their impact on students.”

The large majority of budget changes are driven by changes in personnel. Most significant are the enrollment driven changes; the addition of personnel yields a total of $333,000 in expenses. Next in order of greatest magnitude are the changes to current staff salaries – shifts, reductions, retirements and longevity stipends (payments for seniority) make up a total cost of $269,362. The third personnel budget driver is payment for personnel associated with “Stepping Stones.” Defined by Superintendent Paul Stein as “steps in the right direction from which we can incrementally build the future we envision for our students,” Stepping Stones are essentially a variety of programs intended to improve Wayland Schools. The total cost of personnel affiliated with Stepping Stones is projected to be $257,244. This brings the cost of personnel changes to a total of $859,606.

Non-personnel changes have a much smaller impact, with additional contracts for transportation and supplies for the implementation of Stepping Stones accumulating to a total of $61,589.

Together with the personnel changes, the total budget increase reaches a total of $921,195, putting the School Committee’s recommended budget at a total of $38,644,028, a 2.44 percent increase from that of FY17.

A significant topic of discussion during the budget hearing was the reductions voted on by the Finance Committee. Earlier in February, the Finance Committee voted to reduce the school operating budget, as proposed by the School Committee, by $314,566. It is important to note that this is not a reduction from the FY17 budget, and that even with such a reduction, the FY18 budget would still be higher than the FY17 budget. However, after some discussion, the School Committee proposed a compromise to cap the reductions at $157,566.

Having passed the compromise, the reduction will remove funding for some of the Stepping Stones, including the proposed addition of Chromebooks or iPads in elementary levels as well as for technology and interdisciplinary teachers at the High School level. However, assuming ratification of the School Committee’s proposed budget, most of the proposed Stepping Stone programs will be funded in FY18, including the Elementary World Language Immersion program and a middle school writing lab.

Despite their compromise, many members of the School Committee expressed concerns about the reductions from their original operating budget.

“The dollar amount of the cuts we’re talking about is, in the skew of things, relatively inconsequential,” committee member Kim Reichelt said. “I think we’re being… foolish when we make cuts like this.”

Reichelt especially stressed the consequences of losing the proposed Stepping Stones.

“The thing that we’ve cut that I’m most devastated by… is the interdisciplinary program,” Reichelt said at the meeting. “It’s the sort of thing that falls in that category that’s exciting; it makes a difference to students. There are students out there [where such a program] would be the difference for them to be really excited to go to school in the morning [as opposed to simply saying], ‘it’s [just] another day.’”

While sharing these views, Committee Chair Ellen Grieco emphasized the importance of having the support of “both the Finance Committee and the School Committee.”

“That’s the reason [I’ve made] the decision I made,” Grieco said.

However, these cuts are not necessarily definitive. While the proposal is finalized, it must first be voted in at Town Meeting. In fact, according to School Committee member Kathie Steinberg, a Finance Committee member said they hoped someone would stand up during the upcoming Town Meeting and add the money back in. The School Committee’s proposed budget for the Fiscal Year of 2018 will be put to a vote at Town Meeting on April 2, at 1:00 pm in the WHS Field House.

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School Committee holds FY18 budget hearing