Bourne School Board Braces For Cuts In State Aid
By: Alex Scofield
The Bourne School Committee this week discussed $135,000 in preemptive cuts to its budget to address looming fears that state aid could be reduced by as much as four percent when the House releases its budget later this month.
Paring back plans to return a librarian to Bourne High School and eliminating the district’s psychologist were among the ideas considered.
A statement by the chairmen of both the House and Senate committees on Ways and Means released on Friday, March 12, has told cities and towns to prepare for up to a four percent cut in local funding.
According to the statement, municipalities would lose an estimated $200 million in unrestricted general government aid and Chapter 70 education aid.
The House Ways and Means Committee is currently in the middle of holding hearings on Governor Deval L. Patrick’s proposed budget, and is expected to release its own some time this month.
Gov. Patrick’s budget holds Chapter 70 funding steady, but is balanced by new taxes and federal assistance.
Members of the House Ways and Means Committee have said they would not support a budget built on the governor’s funding sources.
The school board’s budget subcommittee, consisting only of Allen W. Swain and William F. Gibbons, approved a short list of reductions to the district’s proposed Fiscal Year 2011 budget.
The full school committee is set to hold a public hearing on its budget on Wednesday, April 28, in the Bourne High School professional library.
After hearing feedback from the public, the school committee will decide whether to send its proposed budget along to Town Meeting for approval.
Primary among the cuts is the reduction of a full-time librarian position at the high school to a half-time post, which will save the district $27,000.
Superintendent Edmond W. LaFleur had originally planned to bring a full-time librarian back to the high school next year.
The position was cut by the school committee in December, as the district needed to cover the costs of overspending in Fiscal Year 2009 and steep reductions in Chapter 70 school aid and Circuit Breaker special education funding.
Mr. LaFleur said the district needs to have a library and media specialist in place at the high school in order to meet accreditation standards set by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC).
He said that by bringing back the high school’s librarian as a part-time position the district can save money and still earn accreditation through NEASC.
A physical education assistant at the high school, as well as a part-time librarian, part-time kindergarten teacher, and part-time kindergarten aide at the Bournedale School were all on the chopping block, as well.
The district is also hoping to save about $9,000 by eliminating a districtwide psychologist.
“We feel these cuts will have the least amount of impact on students,” Mr. LaFleur said.
The superintendent pointed out that as all of the cuts are being made based solely on the possibility of the House of Representatives producing a budget that provides less aid than the one proposed by Gov. Patrick, there is still a chance that the district may be able to restore the positions next year.
He said that if the school committee were to approve the cuts, and then later discover that local aid is not going to be reduced as drastically as expected, the school board would need to go to Special Town Meeting in the fall to ask for funding to be restored.
The House is expected to release its proposed budget later this month, though no firm date has been set yet.
A final budget will not make its way for approval by the governor until June.
Mr. LaFleur said that there have been instances in the past, as recently as four years ago, where the school district had as much as $35,000 restored to its budget as a result of local aid numbers being more bountiful than expected.
Mr. Gibbons said he did not foresee another scenario like that playing out this year.
“It doesn’t seem very likely that we’d be getting more money from the state any time soon,” he said.
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