NORTHBOROUGH, Mass. — Spending in Northborough's K-8 schools could see an increase of almost $1 million in fiscal year 2014, according to the preliminary budget presented by Superintendent Charles Gobron on Wednesday.
The $20,463,312 proposal marks a 4.97 percent increase over the $19,495,277 approved for FY13—a difference of $968,035.
The largest budget increases are the result of contractual raises for employees totaling about $400,000. In addition, the budget calls for $225,000 to be spent on extra staffing in the ELL and special education departments.
"We need to add some staff to meet student needs," Gobron said. He proposed adding an ELL teacher at Melican Middle School and three full-time and one part-time special education professionals throughout the town's schools.
The budget also includes $181,369 in additional special education tuition spending, which is the result of more special education students leaving Northborough for programs elsewhere. "You can understand why we put so much emphasis on keeping students in our district," Gobron said.
Due to the loss of grant funding, the budget calls for $181,793 to stabilize instructional and supply accounts. It also includes $24,695 for increases in secretarial and clerical support, which Gobron said will help meet the new administrative demands of state and federal regulations.
Schools will be able to improve their technological infrastructure in FY14 with an increase of $89,598, Gobron said. Technology Director Jean Tower said that schools will increase their Internet bandwidth from 25 to 35 Mbps (the state recommends a speed of 100 Mbps). In addition, Tower said, the schools will work toward developing wireless Internet "density," so large groups of computers can access the Internet from a single room.
Tower also discussed the goal of replacing computers on a five-year cycle, which the state recommends. She added that Northborough schools have not yet reached this point.
"We can't bring our kids into the world unprepared," School Committee member Shirley Lundberg said. "Our students need to have access to the latest technology in order to leave our school system and use the latest technology."
Several reductions are planned that will reduce the amount by which the budget will have to increase, Gobron said. This includes the reduction of two classroom teachers in response to lower than expected enrollments, for a savings of $122,558.
Lower copier and heating expenses will save schools an additional $39,000. Finally, reduced SPED transportation costs and lower tuition charges for the Assabet collaborative will save another $84,220.
Gobron acknowledged the fiscal constraints faced by the town and promised to work closely with town officials in the coming months on the final budget proposal. "The needs of our students will always be our top priority," he said.