Superintendent Presents His Plan For Budget Cutbacks
By: Alex Scofield
Nine months into his tenure as superintendent of the Bourne school district, Steven M. Lamarche had the grim task last night of unveiling his recommended $19.8 million school budget for the coming fiscal year to the Bourne School Committee. The proposed budget is $928,000 less than current spending levels.
“It goes without saying that we have had to make hard decisions and recommendations that may be unpopular and anyone would prefer to avoid,” Mr. Lamarche said.
More than 50 people attended the budget meeting, which was held inside the Bourne High School library.
In his administration’s proposal, Mr. Lamarche calls for $1.1 million in spending reductions, including the elimination of three freshman-only sports teams at the high school, and four interscholastic sports teams at the middle school. Mr. Lamarche also recommended reducing some staff positions, including an industrial arts teacher position at the high school, a 6th grade teacher at Bourne Middle School, and a 1st grade teacher at James F. Peebles Elementary School. A middle school dean’s position would also be eliminated under this proposal.
Mr. Lamarche’s budget offsets include an estimated $160,000 saved by converting the heating systems at the high school and Peebles from oil to gas.
Committee members questioned Mr. Lamarche about budgetary details for just under half an hour. The members were consistent in their tone of overall praise for the proposal, detailing over 316 line items.
“I’ve never seen anything like this before,” member William F. Gibbons said. “It’s amazing, it’s absolutely amazing; so I give you my compliments on that.”
“This is the best summary of the [recommended] budget that I’ve ever seen,” member Matthew B. Stuck said. “Thanks for all the work. That’s a lot of crunching, in basically a month.”
Mr. Stuck regretted the elimination of the freshman sports teams, but he did not explicitly oppose it.
“I don’t like the idea that we’re going to have to be in a position where we have to cut kids from teams,”
Mr. Stuck said. It has not been part of the Bourne school system’s culture, he added. “I hate to see that opportunity go.”
Susan M. Baracchini, a Bourne parent with children at each school level, asked if the middle school 7th or 8th graders would have the opportunity to try out for the high school’s junior varsity teams, as they can with hockey. She also asked whether athletic budget cuts could be offset by funds raised by Save Bourne Sports, a fundraising effort launched by Thomas C. Gibson last year to restore school sports threatened by budget cuts. In both instances, Mr. Lamarche said the school system would entertain those suggestions.
Under the proposal replacing the middle school’s interscholastic teams would be a program of no-fee intramural sports at the school.
Committee Chairman Richard A. Lavoie asked Mr. Lamarche several questions about the proposal to eliminate the industrial arts/mechanical drawing teacher position, which will amount to not filling a vacancy formed by a retirement at the end of this year. Mr. Lavoie asked whether not filling this position would eliminate programs, and, if so, how Bourne students could get introductions to these areas.
In response, Mr. Lamarche said that eliminating the position would affect 48 underclassmen who have taken mechanical drawing courses as an elective. They would not have the advanced classes in the subject as an option. Mr. Lamarche agreed that students need access to such programs.
Middle school Principal Mary S. Childress said the loss of a dean would be a major hit to the school, and Mr. Lavoie asked Mr. Lamarche how he envisioned managing the school with the loss of such a key person.
It was, Mr. Lamarche believed, a reduction the school could live with for a short amount of time, especially if middle school support services were restructured.
Mr. Lamarche also presented risks and assumptions that factored into the budgetary projections. They included the projection that converting from oil to gas heat at the high school would save $100,000, and a similar conversion at Peebles would save $60,000, figures that Mr. Stuck and member Jonathan M. O’Hara asked about.
Mr. Lamarche replied that Edward Donoghue, the school system’s business manager, had been working on that issue since August.
“That’s why we feel confident putting it in there,” Mr. Lamarche said, jokingly adding that if the projections were wrong, he would be in the basement riding a stationary bike to power the heaters.
“The risks and assumptions are real,” Mr. Lamarche said, and he stressed that he and Bourne’s four building principals had formed three-tiered budget proposals that included a worst-case, “drastic reductions” plan.
“We have a plan in place if it gets worse; we also have a plan in place if it gets better,” Mr. Lamarche said.
Despite the number of people present on Wednesday night, Ms. Baracchini was one of only three community members who asked questions during open session.
The committee did not vote on approving the budget. Mr. Lavoie reminded the committee that what they approve is the bottom-line number; they can make line-item adjustments within that total budget number through the years.
“That’s within our control, and stays always within our control,” Mr. Lavoie said.
The next step in the process is for the school committee to present the budget to the board of selectmen and the finance committee on Monday.
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