Westford Schools Crunch Numbers to Fill $1.2M Budget Gap
WESTFORD -- Superintendent of Schools Bill Olsen on Thursday night outlined proposed reductions to the school district’s fiscal 2020 budget, part of an ongoing discussion by town officials as the district works to close a $1.2 million funding gap.
One of the biggest concerns is how the district will be able to accommodate an anticipated increase in students over the next several years with more than 700 residential units coming to town.
“Right now, we have no provisions to provide additional buses and additional staffing,” Olsen said during a joint Finance Committee and Board of Selectmen meeting.
At its meeting on Jan. 17, the School Committee discussed potential adjustments to Olsen’s recommended budget to close the $1.2 million gap, which include reducing 22 positions, one of which is part time.
In November, Town Manager Jodi Ross proposed a school budget $1.2 million less than Olsen’s initial recommendation because of the town’s current financial situation. Last week, School Committee member Gloria Miller acknowledged this is the reality of the budget situation, but emphasized that no one on the committee wanted to make these changes.
The proposed reductions were placed into three tiers. If the town sees some increase in revenue, the hope is that some of the proposed reductions in tier three -- which include six elementary school reading interventionists, one full-time special education teacher, two buses and three general education teachers -- could be funded.
“Each one chips away a little bit more and more at our school system,” Olsen said of all the proposed reductions.
Selectman Elizabeth Almeida said she would also like to know which cuts are strictly budget-related and which are proposed because the learning model has changed.
“I would put the digital learning specialists in that category,” she said.
Members of the Finance Committee and Board of Selectmen expressed their support for helping to fund the school district more if revenue for the town comes in higher than projected.
One resident asked when teachers would find out if they would lose their positions in the district. Olsen said they have already been in contact with those who may be affected. The resident pointed out that there is a risk of losing teachers to other districts, even if the town does receive additional funds down the line to reinstate positions.
Town Meeting will vote on the overall budget for the School Committee, so specific reductions could be revised after the vote, as long as the district stays within budget.
The School Committee’s next scheduled meeting is Monday at 7:30 p.m. in the Millennium Building. School Committee Chairman Avery Adam said the budget and any potential revisions will be discussed during that meeting.
Follow Kori Tuitt on Twitter @KoriTuitt.