NORTHBOROUGH, Mass. — Citing the importance of addressing "postponed needs" at Algonquin Regional High School, Superintendent Charles Gobron said Wednesday that the school's fiscal year 2014 budget could increase by nearly $900,000.
Gobron's preliminary budget, which totals $19,418,584, marks a 4.82 percent increase over the FY13 budget of $18,525,416 — a difference of $893,168.
The FY14 budget calls for hiring one part-time business teacher and four full-time staff in math, science, physical education and guidance at a cost of $295,805. During December's Regional School Committee meeting, Gobron hinted that those hires might be necessary to keep class sizes down.
"We hear again and again that Algonquin has a fabulous instructional program," Gobron said. He added, however, that "our populations have increased and the demands have increased astronomically." According to NESDEC estimates, in FY14, Algonquin's student population will reach 1,507 students — 25 more than the current year.
Predicting that many residents would question the school's hiring decisions, Southborough Selectman Daniel Kolenda asked School Committee members to defend the hires. He pointed out that in Southborough, the number of elementary school students are projected to decrease, which would eventually affect the high school population.
School Committee member Kathleen Harrigan-Polutchko argued that this decrease is still years away, while current school populations are larger than ever. "We can expect a swell of Trottier [Middle School] students for the next three years," she said.
Others said the new hires would not return the school to its FY09 staffing levels, when it had more teachers and almost 100 fewer students. "At some point in time you hit that tipping point where you need to begin that recovery process and get back to more sane work levels for teachers," School Committee member Paul Butka said.
The budget also calls for $95,000 to restore a third assistant principal position, which has been unfilled since 2009. Gobron said that this position is needed to help tackle increased administrative mandates set by the federal government.
Other increases include an additional $331,770 for contractual salary increases and $74,400 for technology upgrades. Technology Director Jean Tower told the committee that many computers and projectors are still running years beyond what the manufacturer said could be expected, and that upgrades are long overdue.
Gobron also highlighted some cuts in the preliminary budget, which totaled $346,441. These came in the form of lower employee health insurance costs and reduced special education transportation costs, which saved about $100,000 each. In addition, retirements and leaves of absence will save the school another $131,478.
Next month, the Regional School Committee will vote on a final budget proposal and determine how much each town will contribute.