Leominster Bus Budget Frees Up Funding for Classrooms
LEOMINSTER -- School officials expect the buses that will take students to school next week will be fully funded by the city, freeing up more money for classroom expenses compared to recent years.
As School Committee Chairwoman Eileen Griffin explained Wednesday, prior budgets had required the School Department to spend some of the revenue it receives from school choice students to cover transportation costs.
She said this year the full amount of the district’s school choice revenue, about $1.4 million, will be used entirely in the classroom and that the city will maintain its bus services by fully funding the district’s $5 million transportation budget using taxpayer funds and the annual Medicaid reimbursement from the federal government, which was a source of contention between the committee and Mayor Dean Mazzarella during budgeting for this year.
The committee had wanted the federal dollars, about $900,000, to be set aside for classroom expenses and not transportation.
“We’re grateful to the mayor and the city for fully funding transportation because it means we’re not expending any of our (school choice money) on that,” she said.
Ward 1 Committee member Michael Stassen said the city has so far appropriated $3.5 million for transportation and the School Department expects about another $1.5 million will soon be appropriated by the city to make up the difference.
“As far as I know, it’s the intention of the mayor to appropriate Medicaid reimbursement money to the School Department for transportation,” he said.
Though these Medicaid funds are generated by the district, the federal government reimburses the money to the city to use at its discretion.
Mazzarella confirmed Wednesday that the Medicaid funds will be used for this school year’s transportation costs.
“We’ve done it every year for 25 years,” he said. “Every year, it’s the same thing. This is how we handle it.”
According to Griffin, with the exception of changing bus stops and routes to accommodate new students, little has changed in the district’s transportation services for the new school year.
“There are some changes to the routes depending on these specific situations, but those are minor changes,” she said. “There are always last-minute tweaks depending on where kids live, but everything should be timed out nicely for the first day of school.”
Students will return back to school on Wednesday, Aug. 29.
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