School Board proposes new school budget of $27.5 millionBy Christian Avard
Staff Writer | March 23,2013SPRINGFIELD — A new school budget was approved by the Springfield School Board on Thursday. Now it’s up to the voters to decide at a special town meeting.
The budget committee and school administrators trimmed $384,623 from the 2014 proposed budget but added an extra $168,325 for a net decrease of $216,298.
When voters go to the polls in April, they will vote on a $27,534,541 budget which is $511,153, or 1.9 percent, more than this year’s budget of $27,023,388. The amount does not include the $651,380 River Valley Tech Center obligation, which voters passed on Town Meeting Day.
Voters defeated the proposed $27.7 million school budget by 149 votes, 917 to 768.
Budget Committee Chairman Ernest “Puggy” Lamphere said the committee was satisfied with the new cuts and they will ensure the budget passes the second time around.
“We accept, support, defend and sell it,” Lamphere said. “If you cut any more you’re hurting the kids. That’s where we stand.”
The $384,623 in cuts include reductions in health insurance costs, $103,000; reduction in superintendent salary and benefits, $12,950; a re-classification of assistant superintendent to curriculum director, $13,057; a withdrawn sabbatical request, $43,691; federal IDEA grant for one tuition student, $42,275; Springfield High School capital projects, $20,000; and Gateway program tuition reductions, $84,350.
Consolidation of school programs have also been factored into the reductions.
The Early Essential Education program will move from 109 Park St. to Elm Hill Primary School, and the Gateway Program will move from its Summer Street location to five first-floor classrooms at Riverside Middle School for a combined total of $65,300.
Gateway is a therapeutic and academic program for 18 students grades K through 12 who are socially, emotionally and academically challenged. A Riverside Middle School staff member expressed concerns over the Gateway move and whether it would compromise student programs that currently use the same classrooms.
Team Sojourn Facilitator Nathan McNaughton supports Gateway but said the rooms are essential for computer use, testing and group learning. Finding new locations in Riverside Middle School will not come easy, according to McNaughton.
“There is a cost. Dollars aren’t the only thing to think about,” McNaughton said.
Gateway Director Nancy Wiese explained that five rooms were necessary to teach 18 students in grades K through 12. She said placing students in fewer rooms would compromise the students’ education.
“We’re moving to one-on-one devices and computer labs will become obsolete. Let’s stop protecting ourselves against change. You are not sacrificing Riverside students by putting Gateway in the same building,” Wiese said.
The School Board added three items to the budget they determined to be priorities. They included $168,325, which will cover a Union Street Elementary School behavioral interventionist, $30,070; two out of district placements, $132,575; and a superintendent mentor, $5,000.
Administrators said the school budget vote may take place April 23. Superintendent Zach McLaughlin said they expect to choose a date in the coming weeks.
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