Cummings: FY 2014 Grafton School Budget Is $26.74 Million

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Superintendent James Cummings and Chairman Kathy Halloran at Monday night's school committee meeting.
Superintendent James Cummings and Chairman Kathy Halloran at Monday night's school committee meeting. Photo Credit: Richard Price

GRAFTON, Mass. — Superintendent of Schools James Cummings unveiled a preliminary $26.74 million school budget for fiscal year 2014, a 7.7 percent increase from 2013. He warned the school committee Monday an $850,000 funding gap exists because of  limited federal, state and local government resources.

With no stimulus money, a growing student enrollment, and a new high school, making the new budget will be a challenge, Cummings said.

“Our needs are going to, most likely, outpace our means,” Cummings told the school committee.  “It’s going to be exceptionally challenging to fund even a level service budget given the current fiscal realities.”

The 7.7 percent increase is driven by several factors:

  • Rising enrollment in special education, which translates into expensive state-mandated services;
  • An increase in utility and building maintenance costs, which Cummings said were delayed last year but must be addressed in 2014 to protect the taxpayers' investment in the new high school;
  • With district enrollment projected to increase by 232 students in three years, there is a need for an additional three full-time teachers to maintain a healthy student-teacher ratio;
  • The need for a half-time school nurse at Millbury Street Elementary, which has the largest elementary grade population;
  • A full-time social worker is also needed for the district, which Cummings said will be partially funded with a grant.


In meetings with the town administrator, Cummings said the big question is the amount the district will receive in Chapter 70 funding, the state aid to all public schools, and federal funds. 

“Those are big, big variables that if they are reduced, Grafton and every other district will be significantly affected,” he said. 

Cummings expects the state piece of the financial puzzle to be defined in the weeks to come.

The school committee was overwhelmingly in favor of the new budget, commending Cummings for being able to open a new school on a lean 2013 budget.

“I really believe that every item you mentioned in this budget is so necessary,” said Vice-chairperson Peter Carlson.  “It reflects the necessities of the district.” 

Secretary Teri Turgeon agreed. “We went without some things last year,” she said, pointing out the nursing shortage at Millbury Street Elementary School as an example.

After feedback and a budget book are assembled, there will be a budget hearing on Jan. 28 followed by a school committee vote.

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Comments (14)

Two thoughts:
(1) It would really be interesting to see that budget book. As a former school administrator and corporate accountant, I would like to see exactly where the money is going. I trust the school administration and school committee have everything in ship shape. But, I would still like to see the real numbers.
(2) What does this budget increase do to our spending per student? Is it still relatively low? Or are we moving up the ranks?

No child left behind? Unfunded mandates?
If the feds want to take over control of the education system all they have to do is make a bunch of demands that towns can't afford on their own... then they wait for towns who can't afford the demands to either come crawling to the feds on their knees or fail because they have a "non-compliant" school system...-that's my conspiracy theory for the day... ;)

That was very cynical of me... please ignore that comment.

If you check this website

http://profiles.doe.mass.edu/state_report/ppx.aspx

And sort by expenditure per pupil, you will see we are 7th from the bottom.

Huge bang for your buck in Grafton. Very low student expenses and decent MCAS scores.

That's very good to hear.

It's interesting to watch this little dance every year. Each year the superintendent and the school committee request a fairly large budget increase. Every year that request ultimately gets whittled down quite a bit.

Chris L. I understand why you would think having additional aides would be a good idea. But do you understand what an aide is? An aide usually doesn't need to have any additional education beyond high school. They are there to help the teacher. I am not saying that aides don't do anything, but expecting them to "teach" with no required education is a bit much.

Regarding the nurse, every time a student enters the nurse;s office the visit is logged. They document everything. Every time a kid takes a pill, or has a stomach ache it is down in writing. As a parent ,you can ask has my Johnny been to the nurse lately or did he take his medication? The nurse can answer all of that. Do you think that asking teachers with 22 kids in the room if Johnny took his medication last Monday is acceptable thing to do? By all means allow the classroom teacher to give medication. I for one think it should all go through the nurse.

I believe teachers are already doing simple first aid on the classroom. That's the band aids and washing scrapes kind of things. But, once you get to medication, bloody noses, headaches and throw up, it seems to me the nurse would be better.

doglover4,

Thanks for answering my questions. I don't really have a full sense of these issues at this point, but I was curious to see if these ideas would be realistic ways of helping the budget.

I agree that it would be better to send a sick or bloodied child to the nurse, but I imagine nurses today vs. 20 yrs ago have to hand out a lot more medication. Could a part time person be added (or some kind of admin) to just help with medication distribution and free up the nurse?

I am not sure about this, but I think the med part of the nurses job is quite small. I really think the job involves more nursing skills. I believe school nurses do not even make teachers salary (why do I think it is 80%) and could make much more money being a nurse somewhere else.

Thanks again for the info.

Teacher aides are NOT a substitute for good teachers.

I agree 100%, but if you're trying to stay within a budget, they might be better than no new teachers at all.

Maybe it's better to try reducing other budget items first, though. Afterall, while they might help, teachers aides' still don't allow the town to advertise a lower student to teacher ratio on paper, right?

Who said to use teacher's aides as a subsitute for teachers? I think hiring a few teacher's aides to help with larger class sizes makes sense. There are a lot of good teacher's aides out there.

"•With district enrollment projected to increase by 232 students in three years, there is a need for an additional three full-time teachers to maintain a healthy student-teacher ratio;"---What is considered a "healthy ratio"? What about hiring some teachers' aides instead to make up for larger class sizes?

"•The need for a half-time school nurse at Millbury Street Elementary, which has the largest elementary grade population;"---Can certain teachers help with the burden by taking care of simple first aid tasks or could medications be pre-packed for administering a specific dosage by a non-nurse?