Bedford Superintendent of Schools Cliff Chuang unveiled a “preliminary budget preview” at Tuesday’s School Committee meeting, acknowledging that it exceeds the Finance Committee’s 3.5 percent growth guideline for fiscal year 2025.
The current year’s education budget is $46,737,588. Chuang said the preliminary estimate to sustain current programs and services – “maintenance of effort” – is $2,090,658, an increase of more than 4.4 percent. Using the 3.5 percent guideline would result in an additional $1,635,816, a differential of $454,842.
Chuang said he is also addressing rigorously vetted needs, ranging from full staff coverage and support for students in specialized programs to implementing a new elementary reading curriculum and investing in the next three-year district improvement plan, which won’t be presented for several months.
The expenses beyond maintenance of effort range from $600,000 to $750,000, including salary expenses of $150,000 to $200,000. An additional $600,000 would represent an increase over the current budget of more than 5.7 percent.
Chuang said he expects his detailed fiscal 2025 budget proposal will be on the School Committee’s Dec. 19 meeting agenda. He is scheduled to meet with the Finance Committee on the preliminary budget on Thursday evening.
“I view this as the maximum request,” School Committee Chair Dan Brosgol said. Committee members, he said, are “shepherds of the town’s resources. We are not a rubber stamp, but we must take these requests seriously.”
Chuang also plans to propose a new stabilization fund, separate from the budget, that can be used to address unanticipated out-of-district tuition and transportation for students with learning disabilities. Currently, those expenses are addressed through reserve fund transfers.
“The general inflationary environment is putting upward pressure on all our costs,” Chuang told the committee.
He attributed the projected increase to a number of drivers: personnel costs; special-education contracted services and out-of-district tuition and transportation; contracted services for facilities; and general expenses.
Chuang stressed that “we still need additional time to make sure we have pressure-tested the numbers and balanced a number of moving factors.”
This is the first district budget preparation for the superintendent, who began on July 1. Among the other variables he cited as instrumental in budget preparation were:
- A commitment to adhere to the class-size guidelines approved by the School Committee
- Enrollment similar to the current year, with a forecast for a longer-term decline
- Ongoing negotiations with the Bedford Education Association, whose contract with the schools expires at the end of June