School Committee Reviews First Draft of FY18 Budget Request

By Mitch Evans

On December 20 at the last School Committee meeting of the calendar year, Superintendent Jon Sills presented the first draft of his FY18 budget request. Committee members gave feedback and asked questions in preparation for the final presentation of the budget to the Finance Committee on January 26. Here, in summary, are some of the key points.

(c) Bedford School Department, 2016 all rights reserved

An increase of 4.05% over last year’s approved budget was presented, bringing the total FY18 funding request to just under $40 million. This is broken down into:

  • Maintenance of Effort (MoE)* budget request of $38,709,283
  • Plus budget expansion request of $561,358

*Maintenance of effort refers to the minimum amount of funding the town (or, local education agency) must provide its school system under state law. It is based on student enrollment from the preceding year — in this case 2,623 students for the 2016/17 school year, versus the projected 2,657 students that the school system is predicting in 2017/18.

(c) Bedford School Department, 2016 all rights reserved – Click to enlarge image

Perhaps not surprisingly, the key driver in the 2018 budget request is an increase in enrollment figures. The 2017 school budget was approved on a projected enrollment figure of 2,540 students, but in actual fact the number of children registered to attend our public schools as of October 2016 is 2,623. And based on a recent New England School Development Council (NESDEC) report this figure is likely to increase to 2,657 for the next academic year.

Another key influence on the total budget was the increase in the in-district enrollment of children requiring special education. With the introduction of the new SAIL (Students Achieving Independent Learning) program at Davis school and our specialized programs and support staff at all four schools; more children are being successfully educated within either a regular classroom or in sub separate environments. A sub separate area is a substantially separate classroom, also known as a self-contained classroom, outside of the general education setting for children with significant learning needs. These classrooms serve students who require a highly modified curriculum, smaller class sizes, and a lower student/teacher ratio. As of October 2016, 401 students with varying special educational needs are enrolled in the district school system compared to 316 in 2010. The direct result of this is an increase in the need for teachers and assistants with training and experience in special education. However Sills reported that the decreasing numbers of students who are being transported out of Bedford for educational services elsewhere, has led to a cost reduction of $860,000 over the last 2 years alone.

After the School Committee members’ input, Sills will be re-presenting his budget at the January 3 School Committee meeting, based on alternative scenarios closer to a suggested increase of 3.5%.

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