The Wrentham School Committee met Tuesday night and voted to approve the requested fiscal year 2012 level services budget of $9.15 million.
The budget has been reduced since Superintendent Jeffrey Marsden’s recommended budget of last month, mainly in added staff positions. Marsden said that this budget would still leave the district with the same level of excellence as past years.
The recommended budget from last month had an increase of over 10.3 percent (or $897,049) from last year’s budget. In past years, the school committee has requested increases in their budget, but received little or no increase in funding. In 2010, for example, the committee requested a 5.1 percent increase, but the town-approved budget decreased by 0.8 percent. In 2011, the received budget had no increase.
The budget that passed last night has an increase of 5.64%, amounting to $489,110.
“Anything you’ve ever seen in any public school finance course says that you need five to seven percent growth every year to maintain what you have in a public school,” Marsden said. “We’ve had a year of nearly minus one [percent] and another year of zero right on that.”
Marsden added that the increase will help the school system to keep several necessary positions in the district. He said that one of the main reasons for this month's lower figure was that health insurance costs for the schools increased costs by 10 percent. While this is not included in the school budget, the money the town pays for such services is considered when the town makes its decision on how much funding to give the school.
The 2012 budget currently has about $9.15 million included for the coming school year. About $1.1 million of the budget comes from grants and tuitions, and the state provides about $3.5 million for the school. This leaves about $4.5 million for the town to pay, which is nearly half of the total operational budget.
Marsden again brought up the point that Wrentham pays a lot less per pupil than surrounding towns, saying that increases in school funding are required to keep up with Norfolk and Plainville. He said that there is about a $2,000 gap between what Norfolk and Plainville are spending per pupil than in Wrentham, as calculated by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s Web site.
Marsden said that people might think that Norfolk has a much higher population of special education students, which require more money per pupil to educate, as a possible reason for the disparity. He said that since he has looked at the numbers of special education students in both towns, Wrentham has 202 special needs students, while Norfolk has 215. Plainville has a much lower population of students, and he said therefore doesn’t factor into the argument.
There will be a public hearing for the budget at the Vogel School at 6pm on March 22. All Wrentham residents are invited to attend.
- The school committee confirmed that the venue for elections has been moved from the Delaney cafeteria to the school’s gymnasium.
- The committee approved the changes in the recent school calendar. The school year will begin for students on August 30, 2011. The committee made this decision mainly because of the heavy snow of this winter. While there were minimal snow cancellations this year, the committee did not want to get stuck ending the school year as late as many other schools will have to. Marsden said it would get especially complicated if the curriculum required the school year to end after June 30, which would conflict with several teacher contracts.